Hell Yes. Hell No! Or Who the Hell Cares? (Part 1 – Intro & Love Wins)

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The following is part of a series on Hell, partially as a response to the Love Wins controversy.  To catch up, go here.


Hell is a hot topic these days.  Some say “hell yes.”  Others passionately cry “hell no.” While some are tempted to ask “who the hell cares?”

Over the past year we learned that the Evangelical church cares, a lot. Interesting, for a time, hell was perceived as a low area of interest in both popular and academic Christian realms.[1] Prior to its release date, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person who Ever Lived started a firestorm of controversy. Here’s how it happened.

HarperOne released a book trailer[2] patterned after, the author, Rob Bell’s famous Nooma video series.  With artistic cinematography and carefully crafted prose, this video set the Web ablaze as reformed conservative Evangelicals were up in arms about this heretical book that hadn’t been released yet.  In this short video clip, Rob Bell says the following:

Gandhi’s in hell? He is? And someone knows this, for sure….  What is God like? Because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message—the center of the Gospel of Jesus—is that God is going to send you to hell, unless you believe in Jesus. And so, what gets, subtlety, sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that; that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good; how could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news.

Eventually this video probably would have gone viral, but one of its most vocal opponents helped assure its viewership.  In fact, most would venture to say that those opposed to the book’s assumed message helped it climb near the top seller lists at Amazon.com!

The explosion of controversy started with a blog post by Justin Taylor, known for being part of what many call the “young, restless, and reformed” movement.  Without having read the book, he wrote a blog titled Rob Bell: Universalist?,[3] which caused quite a bit of back and forth.  This statement encapsulates why people were either fired-up with either zeal or frustration:

I’m glad that Rob Bell has the integrity to be lay his cards on the table about universalism. It seems that this is not just optimism about the fate of those who haven’t heard the Good News, but (as it seems from below) full-blown hell-is-empty-everyone-gets-saved universalism.

He concluded his post (as it was originally written prior to feeling pressure to change it) with attributing the following passage of Scripture to Rob Bell:

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds (2 Corinthians 11.14-15, ESV).

The correlating of Rob Bell, whose influence on many young progressive evangelicals cannot be understated, with a servant of Satan frustrated many of us.

On the same day, I wrote a response[4] to Taylor on my blog that got quite a bit of circulation.  I must admit that I could have crafted some of my sentences with a bit more care.  I also realize that I was assuming a bit about a book that I had also not yet read. I think there are parts that I would write differently today. Nevertheless, my rebuttal attempted to show that there are several evangelical options for understanding the finality of those who die without a relationship with Jesus.[5] By that evening, John Piper Tweeted this infamous message: “Farewell Rob Bell.”

Hell Yes?

For a few years prior to this, I had been wrestling with the traditional perspective of hell. Through influences such as – Brian McLaren’s The Last Word and the Word After That, Greg Boyd’s sermons and writings, and N.T. Wright’s comments in a couple of his books – I knew that the tradition was wrong. So when the Love Wins controversy began, I had little problem exploring other biblical options for understanding hell as an evangelical.

Enter Sharon Baker.  For the past two years I’ve had a book on my self that needed to be read.  Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught about God’s Wrath and Judgment clarified some important issues that have been on my mind for the past several months.

A Late Response to Love Wins?

I realize that I’m late… really late. The whole controversy came and went. People either like, love, or hate Love Wins. And many of my long time blog readers have patiently waited for my response. The “tardiness” comes as the result of a reflective journey. I know that this is a fairly important issue (hell), so I didn’t want to contribute to the conversation until I had a chance to articulate myself clearly. I also felt the need to clarify and refine my own ideas on this issue.  It has been a process…

In several posts to follow, I plan to articulate my view of hell by first, summarizing Sharon Baker’s book.  Second, by interacting with another interpretively lens (Stanley Grenz). Third, by bringing it all together into my own cohesive approach to “hell.”  Along the way, I will interact with Rob Bell’s book as I see fit.

Here’s a question to get things started: Do you believe that there is room in evangelicalism for diversity when it comes to understanding hell?  If so, what are the limits? If not, why not? (Please be respectful… I will delete comments if I need to).

[1]. Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 3rd ed. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), 569.

[2] http://vimeo.com/20272585

[3] http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/02/26/rob-bell-universalist/

[4] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2011/02/26/if-rob-bell-is-a-universalist-then-maybe-i-am-along-with-many-prominent-evangelicals/

[5] I wrote a follow-up post that attempted to fill in the gaps that needed to be addressed: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2011/03/02/rob-bell-controversy-your-questions-my-answers/

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  • I’m not sure if you follow Richard Beck, but his blog is one of the best out there (he’s the chair of the Psychology department at my university). Anyway, he did a series on universalism (he is a universalist) not that long ago. Here is a post of his that summarizes everything he said: http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2006/11/why-i-am-universalist-summing-up-and.html

    Also, not sure if you’ve seen this, but a new documentary called Hellbound? is coming out soon. Dr. Beck was interviewed for it as well: http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2012/04/hellbound.html

    As for your question, I think there must be limits. Whatever answer we come up with on Hell, it cannot make God unloving. 

  • I think the bigger question is what the bible says about hell and being in the presence of God. Look at Rev. 14 and see what the angel says about those who will supposedly be thrown into the fire. Although I am leaving out much of the context and explanation, I think it’s interesting that those who are punished are in the presence of the Lamb. Also, the bible just isn’t all that clear about hell, and sometimes does not seem to match other descriptions in the canon (as far as we can tell; compare the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man to the Revelation passage I mentioned).
    In other words, umm, I don’t think anyone’s got the answers to your questions.

    • Charlie

      We focus a lot on the meaning of hell and the reason/context for it being mentioned. One thing is clear, though: judgment is eminent, and there will be a separation of the righteous and the unrighteous. It’s pretty clear what happens to both. And that’s from Jesus’ mouth and the other authors’ writings too.

  • I hope there’s enough room in Evangelicalism! I know there’s plenty of room in the mainline tradition.

    As of now, my own view of hell is based on the Gospel of Nicodemus. In that book, “Hell” isn’t a place of conscious eternal torment, but just a lair where all the dead go. According to the Gospel of Nicodemus, Jesus went to hell after His death to release all of the biblical heroes of the past (Abraham, David, Moses, etc) from the land of the dead.

  • Sure, there’s wiggle room. Wiggle all you want between the two extremes of flat out universalism and eternal conscious torment. 😉

    Indeed, love wins. But love must be chosen.

    • Thanks be to God that Jesus chose love so that it has already won for all. 

      • Thanks, indeed. Now we just have to love Him back. He can’t decide that for us.

        • David Henson

          Nor is God’s love dependent on ours. Love cannot be said to win if it loses.

          • >>>Nor is God’s love dependent on ours.<<>>Love cannot be said to win if it loses.<<<

            Couldn't agree more.

          • David Henson

            If God’s love must be chosen to be salvific, then God’s love is dependent upon our own. Humanity, in other words, holds the ultimate power over the effectiveness of God’s love. So, if love wins, but love must be chosen, what is being implied, but not said explicitly, is that humans have the power to hold God’s love powerless by their whims of choice. If that’s the position you take, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s completely within traditional Christian faith, but it doesn’t seem to comport with your comment that love wins and that love must be chosen. In effect, it seemed to be saying that for love to win it must be chosen and that love’s “winningness” depends on its “chosenness.”

            Perhaps I misunderstood your comment that love wins, but love must be chosen.

            I personally don’t believe in the existence of a literal hell or of a personified adversary (a satan) and I don’t think the Bible supports those positions either quite frankly.

          • >>>If God’s love must be chosen to be salvific, then God’s love is dependent upon our own. Humanity, in other words, holds the ultimate power over the effectiveness of God’s love.<<>>So, if love wins, but love must be chosen, what is being implied, but not said explicitly, is that humans have the power to hold God’s love powerless by their whims of choice.<<>>I personally don’t believe in the existence of a literal hell or of a personified adversary (a satan) and I don’t think the Bible supports those positions either quite frankly.<<<

            I respect that, but I don't think you have much footing there. I believe Hell is real. I do not, however, believe it is a place for humans; it was intended for Satan (whom I believe is real) and his minions (Matt. 25:41).

            I do not ascribe to ETC, nor do I ascribe to Universalism. I find ETC to be appalling and out of character with the God revealed in Christ Jesus, and I find Universalism, while the case made for it is *incredibly* appealing (a large part of me wishes it were true!) save this one thing: love MUST be chosen.

            My personal stance is annihilationism. I believe God, as a loving final act of grace, simply puts the unrepentant (i.e. those who refused to accept His offer of love and everlasting life) are simply put out of existence. It will be as though they never were.

            Many blessings, David. Enjoyed the convo. I'll leave you with the last word.

          • David Henson

            That doesn’t seem like a loving act of grace any more than dropping a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima after the war was won was an act of grace. An act of grace would be to forgive not destroy. No person can ever be as though they never were. I see where are disconnect is. You understand the crucifixion and resurrection in supernatural terms of defeating a supernatural being the devil (who in this context raises severe questions about monotheism given that he operates in this worldview as a lesser but quite powerful rival god). I think that view is rather shaky, biblically, philosophically, ethically and morally.

            In any event, under this conception, the work of Christ isn’t universal nor complete for humanity, only in terms of an imaginary metaphysical battle between good and evil.

          • I’m sorry, I just have to clear two things up:

            >>>An act of grace would be to forgive not destroy.<<>>who in this context raises severe questions about monotheism given that he operates in this worldview as a lesser but quite powerful rival god<<<

            Not at all. Satan is not a god. He is, however, quite powerful.

          • If you take off the Christian lens prejudices, the Satan, as conceived in your formula above, is an immortal supernatural being with supernatural powers that exists on a similar plane as does God, doing battle with God as close to an equal, commanding a legion of lesser creatures/spirits.

            This is, by definition, a deity, a god. What other category does the Satan, as you conceive of it/him/her.

            The problem with the atonement as you’ve outlined is that it creates a bi-theism of two warring gods, one we worship God and one we fear, the Satan.

          • If God forgives, and God forgives all and God’s forgiveness is efficacious for all, then why must God destroy? 

            It’s simply illogical to suppose that God would forgive all and everything and then not forgive one for not choosing God’s forgiveness. (Again you’ve described how humanity’s whims limits and renders God’s forgiveness if not powerless then functionally impotent.)

            God, if all powerful, does not have to destroy anyone. So God choses to destroy rather than forgive. 

            Which is not forgiveness at all, but destruction.

          • David, I’ve already answered this question for you according to my views. I’m beginning to think you aren’t paying attention.

            God forgives. Period. He forgives because He is forgiving. He didn’t even need Jesus to die in order to forgive us as some profess. He forgives us because it’s who He is and what He does. This is what I believe. Got it?

            It’s not that God “must” destroy. He doesn’t have to. I suppose He could let them go on suffering for an eternity. Again, in my view, he destroys as a final act of grace toward the unrepentant.

          • David Henson

            I am sorry you think I am misrepresenting you and that your reaction to my arguments are personal attacks of not paying attention or labeling them inaccurately as straw men. I didn’t think you really intended me to have the last word. One can say one thing and imply another.

            . So, as far as what I am hearing, God can either destroy or let individuals continue to suffer eternally. The only thing God cannot do is accept them, and I presume allow them into heaven. Even though they are already forgiven and God therefore has nothing to hold against them, their choice to refuse God (during a span of 70 or so years) prevents them from God treating them as God’s forgiven children.

            I understand your position. You think that God has forgiven all sins but in order for one to enjoy the benefits of that forgiveness one must accept the forgiveness that has already happened. However you slice it, that puts humans in ultimate control and holds God powerless to do God’s will which is that all be saved.

            I imagine we are at the point of talking past one another so I will let you have the last word, and I mean it

          • When did you attack you personally?

            Why is (finally) beginning to think someone may not be paying attention (i.e. following me) or labeling an argument as a straw-man a personal attack?


            I fully intended for that comment to be my last, but your response made it apparent to me that either I have not been as clear about my thinking as I need to be or you’ve simply been failing to “get it” for whatever reason. I’ve assumed the former throughout our time here, so I felt the need to clarify once more. As I said, my concern is not that you agree with me, just that you “get” me.

            And this latest comment has left me feeling rather hopeless…

            “So, as far as what I am hearing, God can either destroy or let individuals continue to suffer eternally. The only thing God cannot do is accept them, and I presume allow them into heaven.”

            Again, no. God has already forgiven them; accepted them just as they are; and won the victory over sin, death and the devil on their behalf. The only thing He cannot do is decide for them. Until we decide to receive the victory He has won, we are held in bondage and destined for destruction.

            “Even though they are already forgiven and God therefore has nothing to hold against them, their choice to refuse God (during a span of 70 or so years) prevents them from God treating them as God’s forgiven children.”

            Again, no. God already treats everyone as forgiven children. If He didn’t He wouldn’t have come to destroy the work of the devil on their behalf. Appealing to 70 years being but a blip in the scope of eternity is not a good tactic, IMO. While it is not long from God’s perspective, it is a VERY long time from the perspective of an individual human life. Further, I am not *completely* opposed to some form of post-mortem evangelism. I’m of the opinion that most people have never really encountered the gospel and people truly embodying it. I’m also of the opinion that God cares for them a great deal more than you or I ever could. So I’m confident that He has something up His sleeve for dealing with such people on a person-to-person basis. (But that’s a different topic.)

            “I understand your position. You think that God has forgiven all sins but in order for one to enjoy the benefits of that forgiveness one must accept the forgiveness that has already happened.”

            After this comment, I’m still not confident you do. Although, yes, in a nutshell THIS last bit is my position.

            “However you slice it, that puts humans in ultimate control and holds God powerless to do God’s will which is that all be saved.”

            I agree it is God’s will for all to be saved, and I do believe that, in spite of this, not everyone will be. Does this mean God, in the end, doesn’t get what God wants? To an extent, yes it does, but I think this was a risk He was wiling to take for any true love will always involve risk.

            Bless you, David. I mean it.

          • What you’ve argued against IS illogical, but it’s not the position I’ve espoused here. It’s a straw-man. Even the one destroyed has been forgiven. That concept is obviously difficult for you to swallow, for how can it be forgiveness if the end result is destruction?

            So one more time, what happens to you is not up to God. It’s up to you. This does not mean His love or forgiveness are ineffective or thwarted. It simply means that we have a choice to make, for any true love involves risk. And God risked a lot. But as free agents, we can *choose* to remain in bondage to sin, death, and the devil. We’re already forgiven. That’s what *enables* us to choose life. But again, we don’t have to.

            I understand that is not how you see it (you don’t even think Satan is real), and I don’t expect that through my words here your mind will be changed. I only hope you’ll stop misrepresenting my position in your arguments against it. Deal with my position on its turf and terms rather than dismissing part of it (e.g. the reality of Satan) and then arguing against that new position that isn’t mine.

            What I’ve expressed here isn’t really anything more than a standard Christus Victor atonement model with annihilation as the ultimate end for the unrepentant as opposed to ETC or Universalism.


          • No, in my formula Satan is most certainly not immortal. Immortality belongs to God alone and He grants it to those who align themselves with His will. Satan, too, will be destroyed. He is not immortal. He does have “supernatural” powers in the sense that he has quite a lot more than we do in and of ourselves. He is, after all, a fallen angel.

            He’s not close to an equal with God. Not even in the ballpark. Not even in the same continent the ballpark is in. God is infinitely more powerful than Satan.

            He does command a legion of lesser fallen beings.

          • There is no dualistic problem here because Satan is not a deity.

  • Andy J. Funk

    Just about to read John Howard Yoder’s “The Wrath of God, and The Love of God”. Perhaps that one will add yet another dimension to the conversation. I think I have a greater trust for Yoder than Bell, although I thought Bell raised many great questions. Within my own context, there is not all that much wiggle room when it comes to the topic of hell. I would like more nuanced approaches to such topics of the bible, and think churches would do well to not overemphasize such doctrines and distract from what is really good news. John of Patmos could be labeled a universalist, as he envisions the city of God letting in all people of all nations. Perhaps preachers need to chew on that a bit, before condemning Bell and others of universalism. Just some thoughts for you Kurt. I appreciate your endeavours, but I also hope that hell does not become the most important component of the gospel, by having too much writing on it…sounds weird, I know 😀

  • Magicrabbi

    I think at the end of the day (!!) we need to be very careful about what we teach regarding Hell and Heaven.
    The point is, according to Jesus, the ‘here and now’ not the ‘one day when’.
    He says we are working towards an age to come but we can’t be sure exactly what He means, all we can be sure about is that partnering with Him and doing the stuff He says we should do is positive and has lasting benefit, whatever that looks like… 
    If we as followers of Jesus concentrate more on the issues of why and how does one follow Jesus today, then we’ll find ourselves in step with the Big Fella…

  • Ddstraus

    While there is some wiggle room, what we believe about hell says much about what we believe about God himself.  If we hold to eternal conscious torment and that all who fail to “choose” Jesus will burn forever, that says quite a lot about the nature of the God in which we believe.  Is the God who allows that truly the God who is love and who freely forgives and died for the sins of all?

  • The one thing I most appreciated about Bell’s book was his discussion of the ways in which the choice of heaven and hell are interacted in our current existence. In many different ways each of us choose to bring these realities into existence in this life. And as the great General Maximus stated, “what we do in this life echoes in eternity.” 

    I do agree with my Reformed brothers and sisters (and I would agree the majority of Christians everywhere and at every time) that the stakes of this life are real, that today’s choices impact tomorrow’s destiny, that scripture seems clear that we should not hope for or expect some second chance, and that ultimately the love of God will create for us and for Him a grand community of the faithful moving into the next things of His purpose for the people he has called out of Egypt.   

    The primary issue for me is this: I have long discussed Hell as the total separation of a person from God; yet, if I believe as Edwards and others have argued that it is God who holds all existence together (even to the point of recreating creation second by second),  then how is any type of life possible without Him. This would seem to me to be  good Reformed grounds for some type of annihilationism. Maybe Piper can correct my erroneous thinking and misunderstanding of Edwards (I am not reformed and could easily be missing the point); but if there is grounds within the Reformed theology; then imagine the opening within my own Wesleyan / Holiness Tradition. 

    I think that a generous but creedally orthodox position which allows  for liberty and charity would want to state that God allows us a choice in this life about how we will live that life. At the end of this age, we will face Him and be forced to reconcile that choice with the coming age. To those who choose to serve themselves in this life, they have already received their reward (the life they lived on their own terms). To those who choose to serve God and seek His Kingdom above their own lives, they will receive their reward in the new age (and really will have also already have received a down-payment on that reward in their lives in this age).  In some way, shape, and form it seems oblivious that the promise of new life awaits those who have wisely invested their lives; and death awaits those who have squandered their lives. Yet just what death means is not so clear. The creeds, themselves, as well as the scriptures seem vague about what all this means for the age to come. And so we must be somewhat vague allowing for room in the discussion of what comes next, and just what it means to live and die. 

  • Kurt, I admire you for tackling this.  Hell is not an area where I am able to speak or share knowledgeably, nor is it an area where I can enter into the debate.  I would like to share this, however, so that it can be food for thought on this journey you are undertaking.

    God has a desire to be reconciled to each one of us.  The provision for that reconciliation is in the Bible.  After reading the Bible (and I can find you the verses if you wish – just message me on FB) a number of times, and being a faithful seeker for most of my life I have concluded the following:

    Everyone gets a chance to choose.  Even those who have not heard the gospel.  Everyone has a chance to reconcile to their creator.  Everyone has the free will to say no.  If you choose not to reconcile in this life, even in the final moments of it, then God will respect that decision. 

    Ultimately God chooses, and with all our wondering about hell, what it may be and who may or may not being going there are we losing sight of the very place our hearts are designed to seek?  Heaven should be the only ‘after earth’ destination in our itineraries.  

  • RyanRobinson

    What it comes down to for me: there is very little about Hell (or Heaven) actually in Scripture. What is there is usually either a confusing translational issue and/or apocalyptic literature which is not nearly a literal teaching style but is instead very ambiguous.

    This is what it then comes down to for me: if Hell wasn’t that important to the Scripture writings, who I’m sure God could have inspired to tell us something about it, then it isn’t really that important to me. The Bible is repeatedly about how to live the Kingdom of God now, not about how to avoid Hell later. If you want to wrestle with after-life questions, go for it. I’m a theology student, so I do like wrestling with these issues even if they don’t really make that big of a difference in the meantime. 

    But I will conclude with this thought: whatever your view of afterlife is, it will be a lot more to do with how you view other aspects of theology than what it actually says in Scripture. If your God is primarily wrathful and just needs to torture people to satisfy his character, then eternal conscience torment makes sense. If your God is a big friendly teddy bear, then universalism makes sense. I don’t consider either extreme, or anything in between (where I would be), heretical but I do caution anybody who thinks that their understanding of God and therefore Hell is the absolute right one (including myself).

  • Charlie

    Thought Francis Chan put this to rest…guess not! Haha. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

  • clarissa.drew-hogue

    I’m no expert on the Bible and for quite some time I used to believe in Heaven and Hell- the fiery place where all bad people are burned forever. Turned out through my quest to learn more about Christ, I noticed the Bible never really mentioned hell at all. Furthermore as I communicated with others about our loving God, we realized that no merciful God would want to torture his children forever. It just didn’t make any sense. Resurrection happened for the deserving and maybe undeserving and for the ones that were so evil, their punishment was to stay dead forever and not be resurrected and spend eternal life with Christ. I must admit that a lot  of my ideas does stem from numerous talks with Jehovah Witnesses, and like I mentioned at the beginning of this comment, I’m no expert, so this is only an opinion.

  • Aaron

    Interested to read your blog. I myself have come along a similar (but later) path. My first encounter of thinking differently came while reading N.T. Wrights book “Surprised by Hope” about two years ago. One of the best books I have read. After “Love Wins” came out, it has sent me on a journey to wrestle with many of the questions raised in the book, most of which I have asked internally but feared to raise aloud. Needless to say, while the Scriptures might not say a tremendous amount about hell, it does say something, and it is an important issue for many if not all people…what happens when we die?
    Since it’s an important question we shouldn’t just shrug our shoulders, but should be honest, humble, and open. I enjoyed “Love Wins” and the questions it raised are great ones. Judging from my experience and the amount of book sales from Bells book many people are asking these questions.
    I have been raised in a conservative Christian home and taught in the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal conscious torment my entire life. Since this view (whether you agree or not) is hard to reconcile with the God many believe is a God of love, than we need to ask the hard questions.  
    I am thankful for the thought provoking books like “Love Wins” that leave space for differing opinions. Since it’s not essential to believe a certain way about hell in order to follow God, grace should be given to those with different beliefs and I think this is the best part about “Love Wins”. We must try to find another way to disagree. This whole controversy is just one example of inter-family debates that, I believe, should be done with grace and not with condemnation (as seems to be more often the case).  Unfortunately, my experience has been that most evangelical Christians believe in the traditional view of hell. Many also believe that any other view of hell is not Biblical. If, at the very least, these discussions open our eyes to see a different view (even within our own tribe) it has helped tremendously. Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy have also discussed this topic that one can download from the church’s website – very informative!
    Thanks for the info and look forward to reading

  • I think there is already plenty of diversity concerning the different views of hell. And, thanks to Rob Bell, he has added even more diversity to the discussion. I believe most Christians (of all persuasions) are in agreement that there is a hell. Where we differ, is the nature of it. 

    I believe Scripture makes the case for various views of this topic.  For instance, is hell a literal place or figurative? Is it a place of eternal conscious torment in a lake of fire? Or, is it a separation from or absence of God? Is hell merely a ceasing to exist, nihilism, destruction or having perished? Or, is it a combination of these? Rob Bell presupposes that it is possible for God, in His complete sovereignty both in the physical world and the spiritual world, to redeem the lost even after natural death, thus avoiding hell altogether? Furthermore, Bell presupposes that hell is only a temporary refining fire, molding the person into the perfect character to inherit eternal life with God in heaven for all eternity. I personally believe the Bible makes the case for all of these.However, aside from the nature of hell it must be first agreed upon if hell either exists or it doesn’t. Ironically, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses dismiss the doctrine altogether; dismissing thousands of years of orthodox beliefs that even the early church embraced. So, while I think the subject should always remain open, I believe we should exercise caution so as not to embrace beliefs that are in fact heretical. And, dismissing hell altogether comes dangerously close to that. I look forward to hearing your views on this controversial subject. And, I hope and pray that we as readers of this blog can show the world that although we may disagree on things, we can still discuss them in the spirit of Christ, with love, truth, and grace.

  • I love your title, Kurt, though since a great many people *do* care, I’d probably change the third phrase to “why the hell DO we care?”

    I think the answer to that question may come down to how we feel about fear as a motivator in general, and by extension how we feel about authorities (divine or secular) who motivate at least in part through fear.  For example, I would wager that those most convinced of the reality of eternal, conscious punishment are also strongly correlated with those who support the death penalty and the projection of force by our nation.  Fear motivates them to do certain things and not to do others, and they project that motivation onto the rest of society & the world.

    Conversely, those who either look in the mirror and realize they’ve done a lot of stupid or wrong stuff despite the threat of consequences, and also those who believe a loving authority would not or could not or should not inspire fear, would tend to be those who tend toward positions other than burning forever in hell.

    Oversimplification?  Sure.  But I think I may be onto something.

  • JE

    How about multiple lives? 😉
    That’s where I’m at right now. Is there room for that in christianity? I get wiffs of it in the bible & I sit in wonder.

    • Sarahwootendvm

      Me too.

    • Charlie

      Just curious where you are reading this?? I’ve never heard anything remotely close to hinting at that, at least in biblical conversations and circles. Just wondering where you’ve either read or heard about this before.

  • Lisa

    YES WE have a LOVING God, but we ALSO have a jealous God.  We see this clearly with Soddam And Gomorrah, Genesis 19 and in Matthew 10:15, to name a few scriptures to look up.  I think the Bible speaks of Heaven and Hell in MANY Scriptures.  In Luke 24:51, (The Resurrected Jesus Christ)  ‘While he is blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.’ 
    God commands us to accept his Son Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, so we might LIVE for Eternity. God gives us FREE WILL.  What if choose to ‘NOT’?  What then? 
    Many people believe in an all loving, do what makes you feel good god, when the Bible clearly gives us Commandments to follow.  In my opinion, to some -the thought of there being a HELL is terrifying, and it should be, so if God is so GOOD…WHY would he condemn us there?  Why wouldn’t He? I don’t deserve ANYTHING from Jesus Christ, but apparently HE loves me SO much, that when I accepted Him, He forgave Me. He asks me to follow Him, asking for guidance, forgiveness, living ,( Micah 6:8, He has told you, o man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness And to walk humbly with your God.) a Christ-like life, so when I take my last breath…I will see Him.

    Thank you for tackling a hard subject, again, Kurt.  I am NOT worthy of Our Fathers love, however I am so THANKFUL for his forgiveness and GRACE! I am 48, not a young Christian, have not followed God in my life as I should have at times and am so grateful for 7 x7 x7x7 of His Forgiveness and Love!

  • There’s room for all sorts of things. I think that soteriology is the most direct of everything we see in the Bible, but there’s so much beyond that! 

  • In my understanding this topic is without full understanding, therefore it behooves us to proceed with grace, and the common courtesy that we all desire.

    With this being said, love wins, and we all know this, we have experienced this love, grace, mercy, and compassion, the result…we are won over by this magnificent Savior Jesus the Christ. We have been redeemed and are to practice living in and through Him. 

    My question is simple, for those who want to dismiss this love, devalue, and deflate this love, here is my question.

    Are you willing to be judged with the same narrow focus?

    May we surrender our pet ideas, teachings, and perspective to the all encompassing. overwhelming, mind blowing love of Jesus Christ. His love wins… every time. 

  • If what we mean by “hell” as “eternal separation from God,” then yes, I believe there is room for diversity in the Christian church. As much as I struggle with the thought that the Creator and Father of us all would eternally disconnect from one of his children, I believe we must retain something of the hell concept to be true to the historical Christian witness and to Jesus.

    What that looks like precisely and how it’s done is difficult for us to understand, so I’d resist being dogmatic over hell.

  • There SHOULD be space in Evangelicalism for diversity of beliefs in hell, but the unfortunate reality is that there won’t be much.  As Martin Luther said; “self-righteousness is the default mode of the human heart.”  There is far too much hot-headed opinion and the owners of these opinions would most likely fight to the death if they could.  

    Christianity should be leading the way for tolerance.  Jesus never ever chased anyone away.  He let them go (rich young ruler and John 6 – eat my flesh disciples) on their own accord, but He never drew lines in the sand that said, “if you don’t believe this you can’t follow me.”  He just said what He believed and left it up to the people to interpret or make their own.  

    Honestly, I am beginning to think there is room for a new Christian movement that clearly places tolerant Christians together in a common category.  I am tired of trying to defend my beliefs and convictions at the hands of blood-thirsty Christians who display everything BUT the Nature of Christ!

    South Africa