What the HELL? – Lingo for talking about damnation

The following is an exerpt from blogger friend Ryan Robinson. I like what he does in his blog post titled “Definitions When Discussing Hell.”

He says the following:

The Purpose of Hell

Torture: This is what most people think Hell is for …it is based in a definition of extreme retributive justice.

Extinction: The purpose of Hell in this view is to eliminate souls from existence. This is often, but not always, tied to conditionalism (see below)…

Purification/Purgatory: This understanding comes largely from Scripture’s fire metaphor almost always being about purification. It’s painful purification, but the end-result is to be shaped into something better, much like suffering in this life can shape us into something better if we let it.

Who Goes to Hell

Exclusivism: Only those who have explicitly proclaimed their faith in Jesus in the right way go to Heaven and everyone else goes to Hell…

Inclusivism: The central idea for inclusivism is that we don’t know how God will judge people. Some will be saved but not all and like the parable of the sheep and the goats, there will be some on both sides who will be surprised.

Universalism: Universalists believe that Jesus will ultimately save everyone. Hell may exist and serve as a purgatory (see above) or it may be empty from the beginning, essentially being more of a concept than a reality.

Relativism: Relativism is the position held by many in the secular realm and the distinction between this and universalism is very important. While universalism claims that Jesus saves everyone, relativism says that everybody is saved by whatever method they choose because they are all equal. There isn’t anything distinctly Christian about this view and it is debatable whether it should be considered orthodox faith….

The Nature of the Soul

Conditionalism: This view treats eternal life as a gift for whichever group it is that is being saved (exclusively, inclusively, universally, even relativistically). In other words, the soul is not inherently immortal but God gives that as a gift. That’s why it is usually but not always going to be paired up with Hell serving the purpose of extinction.

Eternal Soul: I don’t know of any particular name for this common assumption, but it is the idea that the soul is inherently immortal and cannot or will not be destroyed even by God.

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE because it is awesome!

Many of you know that this past year I did some writing on hell as well (nice rhyme :-) ) I came to the (evolving) conclusion that my view could be called “Purgatorial Conditionalism” where I combine elements of Ryan’s categories of “Purification/Purgatory,” “Inclusivism,” “Extinction,” and “Conditionalism.” The series has actually been helpful for many folks trying to sort out this hell stuff. I’ve had people talk to me in person about this particular series, almost randomly in in places like Starbucks. The series is called “Hell Yes. Hell No! Or Who the Hell Cares?” I encourage anyone to read it… but it is one of those that should be read from start to finish to grasp the ideas I present.

After I finished up my argument in that series, I added an extra post to clear up why I endorse Love Wins, even if I don’t agree completely with Rob Bell. It’s called “Why Love Wins isn’t Jewish enough for Rob Bell.”

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  • http://ryanrobinson.ca/ Ryan Robinson

    Your title is way better than mine. I wish I had thought of that. In any case, thanks for the shout-out. This was one of those posts that I had been thinking about for a while because I found most didn’t really know the range of ideas out there. My own bias is the same as yours – purgatorial conditionalism – but I tried to make this particular post as a useful clarification for furthering discussion.

  • rvs

    Hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple dumpling, so says one of those characters in Moby Dick. I’d be curious to know which types of theologians are most inclined toward hell-mongering, besides–of course–the Calvinists (that goes without saying). I tend to agree with C.S. Lewis on this issue of hell; he says that there are no people as such in hell. This seems right to me, emphasis on “as such.”


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