Giving up Hell for a Year: How it could revolutionize our relationships

hell for a year, pangea

I believe in Hell. Hell is real, in one form or another.

Hell on earth is something every human being agrees exists. War tears families apart. Disease kills parents and leaves behind orphans. Famine neglects to feed the most vulnerable. Consumerism by the privileged fuels the ramifications of all of these things. Hell on earth–this is real.

Hell as a literal place of eternal conscious torment for those who never make a mental assent to the Four Spiritual Laws (1. God loves humans, 2. Humans are sinners, 3. Only Jesus saves sinners, 4. Accept Jesus to live eternally) is another perspective. People with this view, which includes most American Christians, have an obligation to tell as many nonbelievers as possible that they need Christ as a means of escape from hell. The God who died to save them is the God who will let them spend eternity in hell if they don’t acknowledge God’s grace. This puts lots of pressure on the faithful. It can at times lead to relational manipulation (more on that point in a moment).

Hell as the reality of eternal death, a non-eternal life, is another perspective. This view, often called annihilationism or conditional immortality holds (in various forms) that at the return of Christ, those who fail to recognized him as Lord and God will literally perish from existence. They will not live in a place called “hell” forever; hell is the judgement of being excluded from the renewed creation. This is because eternal life is a “gift,” in a literal sense, meaning that faith is the condition upon which an individual will live immortally. Those who do not receive the gift of immortality, will eventually cease to exist–mind, body, and soul.

Each perspective is layered with nuances, to be sure. For instance, those who believe in a literal hell vary on whether the “fire” language is also literal or simply an image of suffering. Others holding the conditional immortality view (myself included) disagree as to whether there is a intermediate state of consciousness in a hell-like realm, after death and prior to the final judgement upon Christ’s return.

My current view is that those who die without a connection to Christ are simply dead, without any awareness of any kind (I do believe, however, that those who are “in Christ” are conscious after death in some way–but this need not be true of those who aren’t as these are two different scenarios.). At the final resurrection, my conviction is that all of humanity will be raised from the dead. The purging fires of God’s love will be the means of judgement for everyone. Followers of Jesus will be judged/purged in such a way to be fully prepared for the new creation.

Those who are not followers of Christ will be purged either a) into a final death/destruction or (and what follows is admittedly more speculative) b) into a postmortem relationship with Christ: thus ready to experience Christ’s saving work and the eternal life they neglected during their first life. Not all will chose this as the trajectory of the hearts of many will remain against God’s gracious way, and thus they will be metaphorically burned up into literal nonexistence.*

Any of the above views, mine included, involve a coming judgement–none of which will be pleasant. Certainly, those embracing the eternal torment view have a worse scenario in mind, but even so, all agree that postmortem realities without God aren’t good. My view holds out the possibility of hope for the non-convinced to become convinced in the final resurrection, but that convincing and purging will still be unpleasant at best.

The Problem with Hell

It’s obvious that when Christians contemplate hell, we’ve got a problem.

Hell is awful, in all of its manifestations. This is especially true of eternal conscious torment. Suffering for eternity for deeds done in one lifetime–this is a hard pill to swallow. I don’t think it is the biblical view, but that’s a point for another time. Suffice it to say that a growing number of Christians no longer believe in the so-called “traditional” view of hell.

When it comes to relationships, I’d venture to say that our theology of hell has a profound influence on how we treat people of other faiths. We use language like “win them to Christ” or “relational evangelism.” But here’s the thing, loaded into those phrases is the pressure to “convert” people into a belief system that will help them escape hell.

A subtle thing happens with many Christians who have hell on the brain; we get batshit awkward around people of other faith traditions or of no faith at all. Being actual friends, with no strings attached, is often difficult because of Christian cultural baggage that comes with hell-talk. We get inculcated into a system of fear which leaves us ill-equipped for building real friendships with people who don’t share our convictions. This problem drives some Christians mad as they wait for that perfect moment to whip out a gospel tract as though it were our U.S. Passport at a dangerous foreign checkpoint. Our preoccupation with slipping in the Scriptures and the “ultimate question” makes us into terrible human friends. Friendship should never be motivated solely by agendas.

Hell No(ne)!

For an increasing demographic in the U.S., if we were to ask them to finish the sentence “Religion is ____,” they’d likely answer: “…not something I think about much.”[i] The majority of this religiously unaffiliated 19.6 percent of U.S. citizens considers themselves to be either “a religious person” or “spiritual but not religious.”[ii] This growing portion of the population challenges whether the predicate of “Religion is…” will matter in future generations. This scares many Christians who have hell on the brain.

The dominant religion “nones” (a technical term meaning a person who isn’t affiliated with or currently searching for a formal religion) grew up in proximity to, Christianity, is perceived as obsessed with money, power, rules, and politics.[iii] Most of these unaffiliated persons differ from atheists, but excavate their “spiritual” selves from irrelevant “religion”—a reasonable reaction against prevailing religious narratives labeled “Christian.” When making friends with a none, the temptation for many will be to see them as a means to a “win.” But here’s the problem, they smell the fire and brimstone rescue agenda like putrid burning sulfur from a mile away. And they aren’t interested.

Also, don’t tell these folks: “God loves you but you are a sinner and need to be saved…” Nones don’t care. They are just as nice as many Christians. Shoot, they give to charity; they have integrity in school and work; they stay faithful to their partner or spouse; they have genuine character that causes them to look out for the welfare of others. Telling nones that they need to be saved doesn’t even compute most of the time. Add hell to the picture and it, as you might imagine, creates a laughable scenario. Religion (to many religiously unaffiliated persons) is irrelevant and hell is a silly, archaic, mythic fantasy for people who find comfort in the ill fate of others who happen disagree with key tenets.

Hell Makes Us Terrible Friends

It seems that Christians have a problem, a relationship problem. Many of us don’t know how to relate to those who differ from us. And when Christians try to befriend others, including nones, the pressure of hell looms large. Fear drives some Christians into a socially awkward state that actually renders them ineffective at relating to the very people they feel so compelled to “save.”

A couple of situations emerge as a result. On one end of the spectrum you have those Christian fundamentalists who parade through every major event that comes to downtown. They have signs that says “Jesus loves you–so don’t let him send you to hell!” or “Gays go to hell!” or “Wrath is coming–Jesus saves!” These megaphone preachers only know how to preach one sermon: turn or burn. And if they aren’t holding a megaphone, they have a sign or a tract. Needless to say that these folks turn more people off to God than they “win.” They have zero capacity to have meaningful relationships with nonChristians.

A second scenario involves the person who is so worried about hell that they befriend others with the goal of “saving” them. But again, as we’ve already established, this approach makes friendship superficial. What do nonChristian friends have to offer the Christian with an agenda? Absolutely nothing–but a “win.” And if the “win” doesn’t come, and it looks like it will never come, then it’s time to walk away. Otherwise, the Christian might be influenced badly by the “worldly person.”

Christians usually suck at being good friends when they are preoccupied with hell–that is obvious and uncontroversial by now. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t a reality to be taken seriously (whatever your theological persuasion may be), but that it shouldn’t be the single reason that we try to have friends who don’t share our view. When we do that, we run the risk of becoming shallow friends, which should be the last thing that Christians are known for. Hell can make us terrible friends.

Give It Up

But…

What if we are truly missing something? What if the majority of Christians are actually “losing” as they try to “win” by failing to move to deep places of authenticity with nonChristians?

NonChristians are not objects to be targeted by holy agendas.

NonChristians often look more Christlike than many Christians.

NonChristians are often fun, pleasant people to be around.

NonChristians have several gifts to offer us Jesus people.

NonChristians can shape us positively.

And any Christian can have meaningful relationships with nonChristians, but it might mean giving up hell.

What do I mean exactly? I want to invite readers to contemplate giving up hell for a year. For one year of your life, I’m suggesting that you become a practical universalist (not a theological universalist). Live as though hell doesn’t exist. I dare you. This might transform your posture toward others in beautiful ways.

If every Christian gave up hell for a year, our relationships with nonChristians would be revolutionized. With less reason for agenda, these friendships would become mutually beneficial. We’d laugh. We’d cry. We’d play. We’d serve. We’d be authentic friends.

And here’s the ultimate authenticity test: If we knew that a nonChristian friend would never accept Christ in this life, would we still invest our lives into their flourishing? If not, then we are still allowing hell to dictate how we relate to others.

Without hell–all we have to offer people is heaven. And not some “high apple pie in the sky,” but the reality of God’s love colliding into our world as we become known for hope and healing rather than fear and manipulation. And who knows, it’s possible that some of our new friends will be curious about our faith–as we would be toward their belief system. But engaging with God would no longer be premised on rhetorical coercion, but would be the natural result of them seeing the radical, justice seeking, enemy loving, character transforming, upside-down kingdom of God flowing through our lives.

So, let’s give up hell and discover how our newfound posture revolutionizes our relationships. I might be wrong, but for some, this mental shift might be one of profound liberation. If I’m wrong after a year, there’s always the old way of doing “relationships” to fall back on.

——————————————-

[i]. For examples and commentary, see: James Emery White, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014), 26–28.

[ii]. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, “Nones” on the Rise, http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/ (accessed October 4, 2014).

[iii]. Ibid. See also: James Emery White, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, 36-41.

*I discuss this view, which I call Purgatorial Conditionalism, in a series called: Hell Yes. Hell No! Or Who the Hell Cares. My view is firmly in the Conditional Immortality camp, with the hope that some people will come to faith in the resurrection (but this, is of course, speculative–even if the biblical evidence points in a “generous” direction.) My view differs from universalism in many ways, specifically in that God will allow many who reject the work of Christ to finally cease to exist.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • LDavidH

    Interesting, to say the least! I wish I could subscribe to conditional immortality (or even universalism), but as yet, my understanding of the Bible hasn’t allowed me that step.
    However, I think most Christians in Europe already live as “practical universalists”; there is very little talk about hell, and also nowhere near as much soul-winning as I would like… And since we are the minority here, most of us have non-Christian friends and family members, that we enjoy spending time with, without necessarily preaching the gospel at them all the time.

    So I don’t think we need to “give up hell” in order to develop more meaningful / genuine relationships with non-believers. We might just need to remember that we’re supposed to be like Jesus…

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      Context certainly matters. I invite you to check out my series on hell, here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/category/series-hell-yes-hell-no-who-cares/

      I’d guess that if this issue isn’t true in your circles, it might be true in other circles in the UK. But, yes, USA is a unique beast.

      • bobmead1960

        I invite you to read my book because it answers all of the problem issues you have with God and Christians. Good day.

    • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

      Please don’t be like Jesus.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxdlEehy72Y

      • Aaron Matthew Hill

        First of all, that’s not an awkward moment. And this woman (and it seem you) clearly don’t understand what Jesus is saying. He is speaking hyperbolically (exaggerating for the sake of emphasis). The idea is if you don’t love Jesus more than anyone else, and aren’t willing to even forsake those relationships to follow Christ, then you can’t really follow Him.

        This stuff is like Bible 102 type stuff. In the time it took to make or share that video you could have found like 100 sermons or scholarly articles by solid biblical experts explaining this passage. Cherry picking passages to try and make Jesus look like he taught hate is just sad. Try reading the rest of what Jesus says about loving your enemies and caring for the hungry, the naked, the poor, the prisoners, etc and then you might be able to put that passage in it’s proper context.

        • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

          Yeah, I know, ad hoc rationalizing and excuse making is Bible 102 stuff.

          P.S. Here’s what you sound like when you use “context” to excuse the horrors of the Bible:
          CONTEXT!!!!!
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK7P7uZFf5o

          • Aaron Matthew Hill

            Ad hoc rationalizing and excuses? That was a nuanced hermeneutical analysis by a man who has 90+ hours of post-graduate education in biblical studies. I’m not using “context” to excuse the horrors of the Bible.

            Quoting something out of context is a great way to misinterpret anything. Journalists do it in interviews to put words in someone’s mouth. Politicians do it to justify their positions by nitpicking quotes. Movies do it to make reviews sound praiseworthy when they aren’t. It is a classic technique for making a text say something that it doesn’t.

            Solid scholarly interpretation of a text always takes context seriously. Feel free to engage with my interpretation of the text but I’m not offering you ad hoc explanations. That’s the same thing I would teach if I taught that text at my church. I was legitimately trying to explain how that video was fallacious.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            “Nuance” is the new seminary word for sophistry in my opinion. Oh, and when you bang away about “context,” you sound like this:

            CONTEXT!!!!!

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PK7P7uZFf5o

          • Aaron Matthew Hill

            Yeah, I’m done with this discussion. You seem like the kind of person who would argue with a professional scientist about what a scientific theory means. If you can’t at least try and take the Bible seriously as a literary text and you won’t trust somebody who does this for a living, then I don’t know why you’re even here. And I certainly don’t know why I tried so hard to have a rational dialogue with you.

            Best of luck to you. Hope you can work through whatever issues you have Christ and the Bible.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Your arrogant “I’m a post-grad Bible expert…I do this for a living” argument from authority doesn’t work so well. And if you actually appealed to reason and scientific inquiry, I’d respect that. But no, you’re peddling an imaginary friend, and then purport I have some sort of “issue” with your make-believe friend.

  • Frank6548

    Giving up hell means giving up Christ. A terrible idea all around.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      How can you equate the two? Help understand…

      Peace.

      KURT WILLEMS
      http://kurtwillems.com
      http://facebook.com/kurtwillems
      http://twitter.com/kurtwillems

      • Frank6548

        For simplicity sake I will keep it brief.

        Jesus believed in Hell
        What are we saved from if not hell? Why do we need a savior?
        Gods grace is irrelevant if there is no reason for it. Without hell there is no point of heaven.
        Scripture talks about hell a lot.

        I’ll stick with Gods truth about hell.

        • Ronnie McBrayer

          Yes, Jesus believed and spoke of hell. But not as evangelism does. Why is salvation only understood as a theological “stop drop and Roll.” It is possible to be saved for something not just from something. Grace is never irrelevant, and if heaven requires a hell, that is a dualism completely unnecessary. Scripture does NOT talk about hell alot. Sheol. Hades. Yes. Hell? Hell no.

          • Frank6548

            You are denying Christianity and Jesus then. Which of course you have the freedom to do so. I hope your blindness is fixed before you die.

          • Ken

            show by scripture how he is “denying Christianity and Jesus then”

          • Frank6548

            Denying the reality of hell is denying Christ, his mission, his purpose, his life, death and resurrection.

          • Ronnie McBrayer

            Thank you.

          • Aaron Matthew Hill

            Grace is obviously not irrelevant, but heaven does require a hell. Why? Because love is a voluntary choice. He cannot violate His character and force people to love Him. That isn’t love it’s tyranny.

            If we refuse grace and choose sin and rebellion against God then we are choosing to separate ourselves from God for all eternity.

            Heaven requires a Hell, because in the end God will say “thy will be done” rather than forcing us to accept His will. That is the only truly just choice for God.

            C.S. Lewis dealt with this masterfully in The Great Divorce when he says,

            “I know it has a grand sound to say ye’ll accept no salvation which leaves even one creature in the dark outside. But watch that sophistry or ye’ll make a Dog in a Manger the tyrant of the universe.”

          • gerrymander

            Why does God want to waste time and energy keeping hell running? Why not just have we non-believers disappear when we die? You know, like we already expect to do.

          • Aaron Matthew Hill

            Well, since God is all-powerful and infinite He isn’t wasting time or energy. He has a limitless supply. Of course you could ask the same question about our lives right now. Why is God using time and energy to keep us and the earth running?

            The traditional Christian doctrine is that mankind is created in the image of God. Part of that involves our souls being immortal. When we die our souls live on. God doesn’t have to actively waste time to make that happen anymore than He has to keep fission happening in the Sun.

            To make non-believers disappear would be to violate our free will. If He created us with immortal souls and we choose to reject Him then destroying us would be to veto our will just like forcing us to love Him would.

            Also, it’s worth considering most of the discussion throughout Scripture about Hell and eternal judgement is that our actions on earth have consequences. In Genesis it talks about how God will demand an accounting of every man’s blood (Genesis 8). In Romans 2, Paul talks about how we will give an account for their life.

            “…because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth but are obeying unrighteousness . . .” – Romans 2:5-8

            If God just destroys everybody who rejects them after they die when will they be held to account for their actions? Somebody could murder hundreds of children with an axe and reject Christ. When they die is God just supposed to let them stop existing? As if there are no consequences for their murderous rampage? That’s not justice.

            In the end God must accomplish two things. He must both be Just and the Justifier (Romans 3:26). He must execute justice on behalf of all the sins that mankind has committed. The men who committed genocide in Rwanda must be held to account for their actions and be punished. BUT, God must also provide a way of justification for mankind because of His promises throughout the Old Testament. Christ came the first time to offer justification to us, but He suffered God’s wrath and the punishment we deserved so that God’s justice could be satisfied.

            In this way God can offer forgiveness to even those who murder children or commit genocide (because Jesus has paid their moral debt), but God can also be justified in punishing those who refuse to accept Christ because they have rejected God’s offer of pardon.

          • Ronnie McBrayer

            Absolutely love the Great Divorce, BTW.

          • bobmead1960

            Well what is Sheol or Hades. It was the equivalent to hell. Jesus spoke of hell more than heaven. Great example.

          • Ronnie McBrayer

            Bob, you’re baiting the conversation. There is no equivalency between Sheol, Hades, and the evangelical concept of hell.

        • Jonnydoe

          Hell is a word Jesus never used. Jesus believed in gehenna and hades. Learning what those terms actually mean will go a long way in helping you realize just how bad our English butchered the original intention of scripture and the true plan of God for all.

          The wages of sin is death, not eternal conscious torment. We are not saved from a literal burning hell, we’re promised resurrection from the dead.

          • Frank6548

            I understand the words and the concepts. Dantes hell is demons and pitchforks, actual hell is an eternal separation from God and his love and people only will ever find themselves there by choice.

            That word death is a out spiritual death which is superstation from God for eternity.

            Hell is very real.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Sure Jesus spoke of Zeus’ brother Hades. Do you really believe in Zeus’ brother, just because Jesus did? Do you also believe in Cerberus, the three-headed hound of Hades?

          • Frank6548

            You are welcome to continue to look foolish.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Do you believe in Zeus’s brother Hades, or not? You’re always too chicken to answer straight up.

          • Frank6548

            See above and repeat.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Too chicken to say if you believe in Hades like Jesus did. What a coward.

          • Jeff

            Quote from the bible or it didn’t happen.

            I mean, yeah, it probably didn’t happen *anyway*, but you can’t just say his book says something shockingly unexpected and then not back that up.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Are you trying to say that that Zeus’ brother Hades isn’t in the Gospels, red letter verses? Most Christians haven’t the faintest idea what is in their Bibles, except for the pap they’re spoonfed from pulpits.

          • Jeff

            That’s not at all what I’m saying.

            I’m saying that if *you’re* saying it’s in there, then you need to point out where. And you did, so thank you for that. Next time you might do better to cite your source right away.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            It’s common knowledge that Zeus’ brother Hades is used in the Bible by Jesus and others, although many translations prefer to refer to the scary underworld realm of Loki’s half-dead daughter Hell.

          • Jeff

            And again, my point is that if it is such common knowledge, you should have no problem pointing to exactly *where* this commonly-known thing happens. Especially when the source material in question has a built-in notation system for easy referencing. At no point did I try to contradict you or say you’re wrong; I merely requested that you back up your claim with evidence instead of pointing to “common knowledge” in an especially trollish fashion.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Pointing out that the mythical underworld of Zeus’ brother Hades is in the Bible, without saying which verses….is “especially trollish.” *snort* You’re projecting.

          • Jeff

            Nah, the trollish part was when you put more energy into scolding someone for being wrong than you did in demonstrating how you’re right.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Exactly.

          • Frank6548

            Isn’t it time you grow up?

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Isn’t it time you talk straight?

          • Frank6548

            How could I be any straighter?

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Who would want to be a resurrected Zombie who has no sex for ever and ever? (Matt. 22:30) Can I take a pass? Can I get unbaptized somehow?

          • sigzero

            Except that the Bible says that we actually are saved from a literal, burning hell.

        • Larry S

          “What are we saved from if not hell? Why do we need a savior?”

          Frank, I think the annialationist position would say that the Christian is saved to Jesus and eternal life with him in his New Creation and saved from eternal death.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Who would want to live “forever?” Especially in a place described by the Bible as something designed by the likes of Tammy Faye? Gold streets, pearly gates, emerald walls…gag me with a spoon! You really fall for that crap?

          • Frank6548

            Did you really fall for your crap? Sad.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Do you really fall for the world’s oldest confidence trick, trying to sell you fear insurance?

            […] they perform their ritual, and persuade not only individuals, but whole cities, that expiations and atonements for sin may be made by sacrifices and amusements which fill a vacant hour, and are equally at the service of the living and the dead; the latter sort they call mysteries, and they redeem us from the pains of hell, but if we neglect them no one knows what awaits us.

            Plato (4th century BCE) The Republic. Book II.
            classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html

            And yeah, it is a confidence game.

            • Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
            • Ephesians 3:12 confidence through faith
            • 1 Timothy 3:13 increased confidence in their faith

          • Frank6548

            Your ignorance is so embarrassing. Yikes!

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Keep proving St. Paul’s honest assessment of the true believer’s intellectual capacity, Frank.

            Not many of you were wise by human standards…1CO 1:26

          • Frank6548

            See above and repeat. Sad.

          • Aaron Matthew Hill

            Tim, that is a poor quotation to make your point. You actually did the opposite. Paul’s comment in 1 Corinthians 1 are about how God uses the supposed wisdom of men to actually shame them. Those, like you, who think we are fools according to Paul are the ones who have been fooled. Because the message of the cross and redemption is “foolishness to those who are perishing.” You know what? Actually, Paul says it a lot better. Take is away Paul . . .

            “For message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.

            For it is written:
            I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
            and I will set aside the understanding of the experts.

            Where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

            [Here come’s your misquoted verse]

            Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one can boast in His presence. But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

            It’s not a confidence scheme. It just sounds ridiculous who think that they don’t need forgiveness and it sounds foolish to those who think that they can earn it by their merit.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            You’re trying to make excuses for what is one of the worst anti-intellectual passages in the New Testament. I didn’t misquote anything. Christianity opposes itself to reason and logic. Even Jesus said much the same thing, that one has to deliberately retard their intellect to child-like credulity, to become Santa Claus eligible, to swallow the “gospel:”

            LK 18.17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

            MT 11.25 At that time Jesus said, I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

            godlessindixie.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/russell.jpg?w=300

          • Aaron Matthew Hill

            I’m not making excuses. I was trying to explain it to you. Christianity doesn’t oppose itself to reason and logic. Anybody that tells you that doesn’t know what they are talking about, especially Bertrand Russell. “As far as he can remember?” Let’s just say his memory isn’t so good . . . (see below).

            “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” – Matthew 22:36-37 (from the Gospels – i.e. Jesus)

            Note: It says to love God will all your mind. That means we are supposed to love God through learning and using our minds. I don’t see how Bertrand Russell missed that. It’s the greatest commandment, the summary of the entire Old Testament as quoted by Jesus. But in case you still don’t believe me . . .

            “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

            “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 1:13

            “. . . be renewed in the spirit of your minds . . .” – Ephesians 4:23

            “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5

            “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7

            “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;” – Proverbs 2:1-6

            “Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.” – Proverbs 4:5

            “for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” – Proverbs 8:11

            “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” – Proverbs 16:16

            “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5

            “. . . in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you . . .” – 1 Peter 3:15

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            I note you quoted only one verse from the Gospels, which is what Bertrand addressed. I think you just proved Bertrand’s point.

          • Frank6548

            Yes but people have to choose to accept being “saved to Jesus.” It’s not an automatic thing.

        • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

          What if Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate act of salvation? What if his death reconciled all of humankind to God – even non-Christians? That doesn’t in any way render Jesus’ death and ressurection meaningless. To the contrary, it makes it even more significant.

          • Frank6548

            There are any number of “what ifs” but we can only rely on what happened.

            Your “what if” has no scriptural support and conflicts with scriptural truths.

          • KentonS

            John 12:32 when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL men to myself.
            Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us ALL—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
            1 John 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD.
            1 Timothy 4:9-10 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of ALL men
            Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
            Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor ANYTHING else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
            2 Corinthians 5:18-19 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling THE WORLD to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.

            I got more if that’s not enough.

          • Frank6548

            All you have proven is that salvation is available to anyone who chooses to accept it. No argument there.

          • KentonS

            Huh. Cause my bible doesn’t have that disclaimer/fine print on any of those verses.

          • Frank6548

            Because you have not studied enough or have chosen to ignore some passages.

          • KentonS

            Yeah, it sounds like you know a thing or two about ignoring passages. :)

          • Frank6548

            I ignore nothing. Don’t blame me for your failure.

          • KentonS

            Right, Frank.

          • sigzero

            Go through the Greek on most of those and *poof* there goes your foundation of lies.

          • KentonS

            Mounce defines πᾶς (Strong: G3956 used in John 12, Romans 8 and 1 Tim 4) as “all; the whole, entire”.

            It defines (ὅλος) κόσμος (Strong 3650 and 2889 in I John 2 and 2 Cor 5 (wo/ὅλος) as “the (whole entire) world” or “(all) the material universe”.

            Τι μπορώ να κάνω δεν καταλαβαίνω?

        • summers-lad

          Jesus didn’t come to save us from hell. He came to save us from sin. We need a saviour because we are fallen, flawed, imperfect. I have a friend who describes his conversion as being saved from futility. We do not naturally live in a knowledge and culture of grace.
          One of my problems with hell (as usually described) is that it makes judgment and punishment reign supreme, and grace a limited exception. It makes these things out to be greater than God. I want to stick with the Biblical gospel.

          • Frank6548

            What is the consequence of our sin?

            The biblical Gospel is about saving us from hell.

          • Kevin Thomas

            Death– ceasing to be with God in heaven. There will be judgement and the unredeemed will be destroyed. …death is eternal –it’s just not being tormented for ever by a sadistic God.

          • Kevin Thomas

            1) The Bible teaches
            that immortality belongs to God alone (I Tim. 6:16), but God graciously offers
            immortality as a gift to people who align themselves with his will (e.g. John
            3:15–16; 10:28; 17:2;
            Rom. 2:7; 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:42f; 50, 54; Gal. 6:8; 1 John 5:11).

            Those
            who choose to reject God’s will are denied this gift, following the pattern of
            Adam and Eve when God denied them access to “the tree of life” (Gen 3:22-24).
            This implies that all who reject the gift of eternal life perish. The
            traditional view of hell, however, assumes that people are inherently
            immortality, which is a Greek, not a biblical, view.

            1Timothy
            6:16

            16
            who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has
            seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

            John
            3:15-16

            15
            that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

            16
            For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever
            believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

            John
            10:28

            28
            I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them
            out of my hand.

            John
            17:2

            2
            For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life
            to all those you have given him.

            Romans
            2:7

            7
            To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he
            will give eternal life.

            Romans
            6:23

            23
            For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ
            Jesus our Lord.

            1Corinthians
            15:42; 50, 54

            42
            So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is
            perishable, it is raised imperishable….

            50
            I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the
            kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable…..

            54
            When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with
            immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been
            swallowed up in victory.”

            Galatians
            6:8

            8
            Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction;
            whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

            1
            John 1:11

            11
            And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in
            his Son.

            Genesis
            3:22-24

            22
            And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and
            evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree
            of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the
            Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he
            drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim
            and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of
            life.

            2)
            Scripture teaches that the wicked suffer “eternal punishment”(Mt 25:46),
            “eternal judgment” (Heb 6:2) and “eternal destruction” (2 Thess 1:9), but this
            doesn’t mean the wick endure “eternal destruction.”

            They
            rather experience “eternal destruction” the same way the elect experience
            “eternal redemption” (Heb 5:9, 9:12). The elect do not undergo an eternal
            process of redemption. Their redemption is “eternal” in the sense that once the
            elect are redeemed, it is forever. So too, the damned do not undergo an eternal
            process of destruction (is that even a coherent concept?). The wicked are
            “destroyed forever” (Ps 92:7), but they are not forever being destroyed.

            Matthew
            25:46

            46
            “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal
            life.”

            Hebrews
            6:2

            2
            instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of
            the dead, and eternal judgment.

            2
            Thessalonians 1:9

            9
            They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the
            presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might

            Hebrews
            5:9

            9
            and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey
            him

            Hebrews
            9:12

            Psalm 1:6 … but
            the way of the ungodly shall perish

            Psalm
            37:20 But the wicked shall perish… they shall consume; into smoke shall they
            consume away.

            Psalm
            92:7 … shall be destroyed forever

            Matthew
            10:28b Rather, fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

            John
            3:16 … whosoever believeth in him should not perish (Greek: destroyed) …

            Romans
            6:23 For the wages of sin is death …

            Philippians
            3:19 whose end is “destruction” …

            2
            Thessalonians 1:9 who shall be punished with everlasting destruction …

            Hebrews
            10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition (Greek: destruction);
            but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

            James
            4:12a There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.

            Revelation
            20:14 This is the second death…

          • summers-lad

            I believe the Gospel is seriously distorted by focussing only on saving us from the consequences of sin. Saving us from sin is much more than that.

          • Frank6548

            It’s the primary mechanism however it does result is so much more.

      • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

        Just think Kurt, within your belief system, you’re looking to spend an eternity in the same place as Frank. Over an eternity, you’ll see him now and then, and will spend a total, if there is such a concept in eternity, of millions and billions of eons in his company.

        All while not doing anything remotely human.

        Zero sex. Hey, Jesus wanted guys to get castrated here on earth, so you got fair warning. Zero marriage to your present wife, or any other wife you’ve ever had. That fruitcake Jesus was pretty down on marriage, if you remember from the Bible.

        So you won’t be a man in any sense of the word. Maybe an “it.” Or a thing, like Frank, in your “glorified” emasculated “bodies.”

        Sounds like hell to me.

        • Frank6548

          How pitiful you are so tied to the things of this world. If you want to settle for a mer shadow go for it..

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            If you want to settle for make-believe in a fabled afterlife while you miserably hate this life, then go for it.

            John 12:25 anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life

            But it seems like a bad bet to me.
            http://www.awkwardmomentsbible.com/bettingitall/
            http://www.awkwardmomentsbible.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/pascal_wager.jpg

          • Aaron Matthew Hill

            Tim, go research Pascal’s Wager. This is, once again, a bad misquote from Hebrews 11 and the article does a crappy job of dealing with Pascal’s Wager. Having a family that rejects you (which is unChristian) has no bearing on the soundness of Pascal’s wager.

            The bet isn’t on whether people will attend your funeral, which won’t matter because you are dead. The bet is whether there is an afterlife and how our choices now impact that afterlife. If you bet against an afterlife and you’re right then you won’t even be around to say, “I told you so.” If we’re right, however, and Hell is real, then a wrong bet now will have eternal consequences. I’m willing to bet on God and the most successful religious teacher in human history. I’ll take the odds.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            You go study Pascal’s wager; it approaches nowhere close to “soundness.”

            Pascal’s Wager Refuted
            infidels.org/library/modern/theodore_drange/wager.html

            I’m not willing to hate the good in this life for a make-believe afterlife, and that is exactly what Jesus calls for.

            John 12:25 anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life

          • Aaron Matthew Hill

            That infidel site has some pretty weak logic. But, okay, who cares if Pascal’s Wager isn’t a watertight argument. I think it is, but I didn’t come up with it. No sweat off my back.

            I would point out though that Jesus is not asking you, or anybody, to “hate the good in this life.” That’s not what John 12:25 is teaching. Jesus is actually first talking about his coming death and then about the choice to follow Him.

            Jesus replied to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. “I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” – John 12:24-26

            Jesus is teaching the disciples that 1) He must die in order to produce a large following (the Church) and that 2) anyone who loves their OWN life on this earth will lose it. Meaning that if all you love is your own freedom and your own life, that is a waste, because you will lose it (i.e. the “good in this life” is going to end). You will die one day and the life you love will end.

            The contrast is those who choose to disregard or despise this life (Jesus is speaking hyperbolically here). He says they will actually gain eternal life after they die. In other words, Jesus is using the words ‘love’ and it’s antonym ‘hate’ to make a point about the bet or wager that we are discussing. Following Christ means denying yourself, “hating your life” as opposed to gratifying yourself and your desires, “loving your own life.” The picture is of choosing to lay down your dreams and desires to follow Christ and adopting His dreams and desires instead.

            Maybe that’s a choice you don’t want to make. But don’t think that Jesus wants you to hate life in general, like some sort of grumpy cynic. There are tons of passages that talk about the joy that following Christ brings. It turns out that putting Christ first and ourselves last leads to joy in this life and the next.

            You can see this clearly in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl in Matthew 14:44-46.

            “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.”

            Followers of Christ are called to give up what we cannot keep (our lives and our stuff) in order to gain that which is of surpassing eternal value (fellowship with God and eternal life). Paul says,

            ” . . . everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” – Philippians 3:7-9

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            You’re whitewashing the horrors Jesus taught. I’ve heard it all before, and don’t need more thumping with your Bible.

          • Giauz Ragnarock

            The problem is taking any position, whether a believer or not, lands you in a lot of “hells”. The wager is heads you lose and tails you lose. Pick one… of these thousands of coins. Some have been lost. Also, one of the faces may be a scratch-off that reveals a ‘You Win’.

          • Alicia T

            “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Peace on and to both of you.

          • Frank6548

            There is no love in not telling the truth.

        • summers-lad

          A friend once said to me that something he was looking forward to in heaven was getting on with people he couldn’t stand on earth. So I don’t mind who I share it with – the more the merrier.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Besides no sex and no marriage, is everybody getting lobotomies?

      • Aaron Matthew Hill

        I think Frank6548’s point is that Jesus teaches about Hell. A lot. You can’t ignore what He teaches or explain it away without losing something of the real Jesus.

        The simplest example comes from Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46 where he talks about how some will “go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

        Jesus says “eternal punishment.” He doesn’t say “destruction” – implying annihilationism. Nor does He say “unconscious death” implying some sort of unawareness (like you advocate). The idea is clearly that some people are saved and experience eternal life and some people are condemned and experience eternal punishment (ongoing eternal punishment). It makes me squirm a little bit, but that doesn’t give me leeway to ignore or distort what He says.

        I think Frank6548’s point ultimately is (or at least my retort would be) – ignore or disagree with Jesus’ teachings on hell and think that you are still following Him or His teachings? The same thing happens if you ignore or distort what Jesus teaches about anything else – loving your enemies, giving, etc (which plenty of people do).

    • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

      Why is giving up make-believe a terrible idea all around? Your belief system is no more valid than a kid who believes there are monsters under her bed.

    • Hugh D. Young

      You’re a fucking moron…..next!!/

      • Frank6548

        Yes I understand you have no actual counterpoint and must resort to playground antics. Not surprising your words and attitude are immature since your beliefs are as well.

    • Alicia T

      “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Peace on and to both of you.

    • http://www.morphblog.net/ Lindsey Harts

      Disagree. I think your Christ is too small.

      • Frank6548

        Your ignorance of who Christ is, is quite embarssing.

        • http://www.morphblog.net/ Lindsey Harts

          To each his own, brother.

  • Dan

    I adopted the conditional immortality view in 2010, and practically speaking, adopting that viewpoint brought about the results that your proposed experiment seeks. I didn’t even need to live as a practical universalist to do that (so I don’t see that as a necessity). There’s a world of difference between the paradigm of seeing your friends as heading for likely eternal torture and literally anything else.

    It also frees the Christian to truly experience joy IMO, because believing what I did, I knew I couldn’t truly do so. But given that Jesus didn’t shy from eschatological warnings, I don’t think we should completely cut the thought off altogether.

  • Stephen G. Parker

    So Christians need to be “saved from hell” by their non-Christian friends! 😀

  • http://acreativeministry.com/ Ben Hood

    Thanks for the article Kurt! My initial thoughts are if we give up talk or thoughts of hell because it’s uncomfortable why don’t we just pretend other uncomfortable things like child slavery doesn’t exist for a year… I’m concerned ignoring something because it’s not nice to think about it doesn’t help anyone. I, like you subscribe to conditional immortality and I believe there is no dark God standing behind Jesus to flatly condemn those who may have not got the “right” end of the stick (is there ever the right end?) during this life. God isn’t going to drag people kicking and screaming into the new creation. If they don’t want eternity they won’t receive it. I liken the analogy of the “fires of hell” to the burning of the conscience when I’ve screwed up or about to, a feeling most of us probably know. Coupled with the thought that god isn’t going to drag us into the new creation, maybe that’s how we approach it when people ask us about it. Anyway, initial thoughts typed by fat fingers on an iPhone while getting kids ready for school… hope it makes some sense! Peace brother, keep up the great work :)

  • KentonS

    As a universalist (not just “practical”), I can attest that you are absolutely right about how it transforms relationships. So, yes! Go for it!

    • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

      I second this.

      • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

        KentonS and Ford 1968, I’m glad to hear you and Kurt like this. It’s a really cool challenge.

        I endorse it as an atheist, but I offered something in addition. See what you think:

        http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2015/01/good-kurt-willems-challenges-christians.html

        Cheers.

        • KentonS

          Thanks, John. Your challenge has merits but I will probably pass on it. The lens of theism is the one I choose to live my life through. It’s one that says God loves us and death does not have the last word. (My short explanation of the gospel.)

          I understand that that lens does not work for everyone. Lots of folks have suffered abuses at the hands of religious figures in their lives, and for some the idea that God would live among us and rise from the dead just seems mentally preposterous. I get that. But it works for me, so I would ask that you would try to understand that.

          If it helps, the atheist in my neighboring cubicle gave me a copy of Sam Harris’ latest book. I want to read it, but it is a ways down my list right now.

          Grace to you today, John!

          • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

            Okay KentonS, thanks for considering it. Cheers.

          • Peter Grice

            “dispassionately examine their faith for the first time in their lives. Go on. Try it this year. I dare you.”

            If this is the gist of the Loftus challenge, it doesn’t make sense in my context. Myself and many Christians I know do this perennially, and did so before converting. We read atheist literature and attend atheist gatherings without fear. Examination is just the point of faith, fideism being a persistently stupid suggestion.

            “Maybe Kurt Willems will do likewise with hell (he’s already there with his conditional immortality view)?”

            This also doesn’t square, John, although I am aware you have studied this. Conditional Immortality isn’t akin to an atheist outlook. It states that right now everyone has an opportunity to live forever, including atheists. Atheists don’t believe this, so don’t have the baseline against which eternal privation of life is measured. Within atheism, mortality is a given. Within Christianity rightly understood, and indeed the core gospel message, life is a provisional grant to all, with ongoing life available to those who seek “glory, honor and immortality” (Rom 2:7; 2 Tim 1:10; Rev 2:17 cf. Gen 3:22; John 3:16).

  • Jonnydoe

    Excellent article, Kurt. I found that when I embraced the Ultimate Reconciliation of man to God it forever changed the way I interacted with “nones”. It relieved me of so much burden and fear and allowed me to truly be friends with others. Thanks for writing this.

    • Guthrum

      Being friends with others is fine, but I love my friends, family, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and anyone I meet too much to risk them dying without faith in Jesus and spending eternity in hell totally separated from Jesus !
      There are those pastors and church leaders who are telling people that there is not a real heaven or hell. They are denying the truth of the Bible !They are leading people straight to an eternity in hell !
      “Where in hell are you going ?”

  • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

    Why not just give up believing in a make-believe afterlife, and stop with the arrogant “I’m getting better presents from my heavenly Santa Claus than you” salvation schtick? Then we can be friends.

    • bobmead1960

      My book is proof of a God and proves all five major religions are wrong or one is right. It proves why God can’t spend eternity with man? It explains what it is like to be in the presence of God and hell in less than 2 minutes were of the 300 surveyed only one disagreed with the concept. It answers all the hard questions man has about God! Good day.

      • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

        Oh, so you prefer Norse mythology, referring to the scary underworld realm of Loki’s half-dead daughter Hell that so often replaces Jesus’ reference to Zeus’ brother Hades. Cool story, bro.

        • bobmead1960

          No the book is based on logic and reasoning not mythical figures.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            You referred to the underworld realm of Loki’s daughter Hell, a mythical figure.

          • banger377

            Your eye’s got a Loki pokey?

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            How did that Norse mythology of the scary underworld of Loki’s half-dead daughter Hell get into the Bible, anyway?

          • banger377

            I don’t know what you are talking about, you don’t either, but the Bible predates the Norsemen by 500 years. (My ancestors were Norsemen).

          • banger377

            logic, reason and verifiable history (through archeology, for one).

          • bobmead1960

            Exactly and lots of it. Science, medicine, archeology and discernable truth!

    • Orwellian_Dilemma

      Are you as bigoted against muslims as you are Christians? Or is your bile and hatred limited only to those who will feel sorry for you and pray for your soul?

      • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

        What’s the difference?

        “[…] the Quran derives from a Syriac Christian lectionary.”

        The Christian Origins of Islam, by Peter Leithhart
        http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/12/the-christian-origins-of-islam

        • Orwellian_Dilemma

          The difference is that all your cool courage to be bigoted toward people who aren’t hurting you in the least, is unseemly and base if you are too cowardly to be equally bigoted to those who are causing harm.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            I’m sure you’ve got that “equally bigoted” stuff down real well. But just because you’re so brave. *snort*

          • Orwellian_Dilemma

            I don’t deride people for what they believe, but I hold them accountable for what they do.

            Perhaps you should watch and learn rather than spewing arrogance and hatred toward people who do you no harm.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Evangelizing that one has a “gospel” that others should accept as their own is the very essence of “deriding people for what they believe.”

          • Orwellian_Dilemma

            Really? So if I drive by and notice your house is on fire and ring the doorbell: “uh, sir, your house is on fire”… That’s deriding you? I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Neither my house is on fire, nor am I in need of salvation. But Jesus is still ringing my bell, and telling me “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!” (MT 10:34)

            http://www.awkwardmomentsbible.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/AwkwardBible_Halloween_Jesus4.jpg

          • Orwellian_Dilemma

            Cute. But it doesn’t support your position.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Sure it does. (No reason given, since you gave none. Two can play at the game of gainsaying.) 😉

          • Orwellian_Dilemma

            Stop trying to hide your bigotry in sophistry. Now run along. Those churches won’t just burn themselves.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Why are you so angry and bitter?

          • Orwellian_Dilemma

            I’m not angry. I just don’t like bigots.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            A bi-got is one who denounces those in the name of god, by god. Bi-Got!

            I don’t do that. (Want to try again?)

            2.bp.blogspot.com/-GoX52zeX5Fc/UYa7oRc-SOI/AAAAAAAADdI/hrnGlSvGT44/s1600/Anti-ChristianBigotry.jpg

          • banger377

            The killing fields of atheists are all over the world. Cambodia, Rwanda, China, USSR.

            Of course little cartoons are more effective propaganda for shallow thinkers.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            I’m glad you brought mass murder up. Nobody can do it quite like Christians, with the world’s most massive genocide under their belt. And don’t forget, even “peaceful” Anabaptists tripped over themselves in support of Hitler.

            ” The destruction of the Indians of the Americas was, far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world…”
            –David Stannard (1992) American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World. Oxford University Press.

            “The reason the Christians have murdered…is purely and simply greed.”
            –Bartolomé de las Casas (1542) A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies

            Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.
            –Thomas Jefferson (1782) Notes on Virginia</u

          • banger377

            “I’m glad you brought mass murder up. Nobody can do it quite like
            Christians, with the world’s most massive genocide under their belt”.

            Now this is really interesting. Where did you conjecture up that one. I could manage to insult you but I won’t. You have serious cognitive problems if you believe that.

            PS. I know you like links to prove something. Look up RJ Rummels website at the U of Hawaii. His research has been duplicated by several different studies now. They all have the same thread running through them: Atheist, socialistic, authoritarian governments are the worlds leading murderers, in a close tie with islam. Constitutional republicanism (Christianity) is the most benign.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            To Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Berlin:
            The Conference of East and West Prussian Mennonites, assembled today in Tiegenhagen, Free State of Danzig, feels deep gratitude for the powerful revival that God has given our nation through your energy, and promises joyful cooperation in the upbuilding of our Fatherland through the power of the Gospel, faithful to the motto of our forefathers: No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.”
            –Mennonite Nazis
            ephrataministries.org/remnant-2012-11-mennonite-nazis.a5w

            My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior…I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian…For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.
            –Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922
            (Norman H. Baynes, ed. (1942 The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939,Vol. 1 of 2. Oxford University Press. pp. 19-20.)

          • banger377

            Pretty good research. That was during Hitlers use of the church to build his power base. Of course if you keep reading you will see that he betrayed the “church” when he was done with them. That’s what tyrants do. That’s what atheists do. That’s what progs do. “Christian churches in America now have feminist pastors, homosexual/pedophile pastors, all kinds. By the Bibles own definitions, those are not christian churches. “Woe you who call yourselves Jews and are not.”

            Judge people by actions not words, regardless of the title. The fool says in his own heart: “There is no God.”

            Maybe you are not really a fool. You do seem to hate a God that you say does not exist. How irrational is that.

          • lou77

            I am sure you have good reasons for thinking that Tim but it is not true.

          • Guthrum

            No, there is no derision here. It is out of love and concern that Christians have the mission of spreading the Gospel to a lost and dying world. There have been so many people who express gratitude that someone ; a pastor, church member, church leader, Sunday School teacher, choir member, or any Christian, cared enough about them to help bring them to Jesus and His life saving grace ! Jesus is the only way to salvation: not church membership, tithing, being a deacon, a theology degree, giving to the poor: good works will not save you !
            Do not follow or listen to pastors who are preaching a “universal” salvation false doctrine.

          • http://big-diesel.blogspot.com/2009/06/lucifers-hammer.html Tim Hamner

            Salvation from a scary underworld of Zeus’ brother Hades (or Loki’s daughter Hell) is not necessary at all. The world is round, not flat, and there is no realm of the damned beneath our feet. But people are still falling for the oldest “fear insurance” scam in history.

            […] they perform their ritual, and persuade not only individuals, but whole cities, that expiations and atonements for sin may be made by sacrifices and amusements which fill a vacant hour, and are equally at the service of the living and the dead; the latter sort they call mysteries, and they redeem us from the pains of hell, but if we neglect them no one knows what awaits us.

            Plato (4th century BCE) The Republic. Book II.
            classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html

    • sandraleesmith46

      Well that’s a particularly UNINVITING beginning seeing as YOU happen to be asking what you seem to not want others to ask of you! Why don’t you stop denying the reality of your Creator, instead?

    • lou77

      we are friends no matter what tim.

  • Aaron Matthew Hill

    Genius idea! You should totally invent a time machine, go back, and pitch this idea to Jesus. If only Jesus would have tried this during his ministry. Maybe your pitch could go something like this . . .

    “Pssst . . . excuse me Jesus. Have you tried living as if Hell doesn’t exist for a year? I know it sounds weird, just hear me out! Think about it. You could stop threatening people with going to Hell or telling them they’ll go to Hell all the time (like you do way too often – Matthew 5:22, 29-30, 16:18, 18:19, 23:15, 33, Mark 9:43-47, etc). I think it would really help you be a better more “authentic” friend. Instead of saying stuff like, “whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the fire of hell,” you could just invest in their flourishing, as a friend, even if they aren’t going to obey your teaching and follow you. I think if you adopt this newfound posture, Jesus, it will truly revolutionize your relationships.”

    • KentonS

      When I was little I pictured God in heaven watching when I would say “You f-” and then catching myself I would quickly change it to “You idiot!”

      I then pictured God wiping the sweat from his forehead relieved that I had caught myself before actually calling someone “fool.” (And taking his hand off of hell’s gas valve.)

      So I’m guessing that’s pretty close to your image of God, yes Aaron? :)

      • Aaron Matthew Hill

        Not at all KentonS.

        My picture of God looks like Jesus – who died for us while we were still sinners. The Bible portrays a God who forgives us even before we sin (Romans 5:12-15), who pursues us first, and who is ready and willing to offer us grace and forgiveness freely. My point was to illustrate the absurdity of trying to tell Christians to “give up hell for a year.”

        No true follower of Christ, in their right mind, would walk up to him after he shares the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31) and pitch this idea.

        “Hey Jesus, this talk about hell, fire, Lazarus and the rich man – it’s scaring people and it makes them uncomfortable. You should try giving up the idea of hell for a year. I bet you’d draw bigger crowds.”

        If you can imagine yourself doing that and Jesus being cool with it, then you don’t know the real Jesus.

        If you are going to follow Jesus and take what He said in the Gospels seriously then you need to deal with the fact that Jesus talked about Hell, a lot. You can choose to reject that or ignore it, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to claim to follow somebody and then ignore what they said.

        Should we dwell on Hell all the time? No.
        Should we frighten children into obedience with visions of Hell? No.

        The Jesus portrayed in Scripture talks more about how to have eternal life than about eternal separation from God, but He does talk about it. Followers of Christ can’t ignore that.

        • KentonS

          See, I read the story of Lazarus as an indictment about passing by the poor who are outside my gate. I read the passage in the sermon on the mount to say that violence is not just limited to physical, it can be verbal as well. (The context is Jesus saying that “do not murder” is not enough in his kingdom.)

          In spite of that, I’m ashamed to say I still sometimes pass the poor at my gate, and I still use sarcasm. From your first post it looks like we’re in the same company, so really neither of us can claim to follow Jesus because we both ignore what he says, yes?

          Other comments in this thread mention that Jesus’ talk of hell is mostly about Gehenna (a valley outside Jerusalem). The bodies of lots of Jesus audience who rejected his message ended up being burned there after the Roman general Titus wiped out Jerusalem in AD 70. That understanding of Jesus’ words about hell changes the game and is hardly the same as ignoring them.

          • Aaron Matthew Hill

            Not at all. I see that meaning in the story of Lazarus as well. There can be more than one meaning in a parable. The parable teaches that our actions on this earth have irrevocable consequences (like how we treat the poor). It also teaches us that hell and separation from God is real and that after we die it’s too late to change our minds. If you won’t listen to the Scriptures now then you won’t listen even if somebody came back from the dead (hint: Jesus).

            Jesus’ teachings on murder have nothing to do with sarcasm. It has to do with holding hate in your heart. Jesus says, “everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment . . .” He simply uses the words as an example. They are symptom of a hatred in your heart. I’m not angry with you, nor do I hate you. I used sarcasm to make a point. Sarcasm serves a legitimate rhetorical purpose and even Jesus used it. Check out Luke 13:31-33 (one example). The Pharisees tried to warn Jesus that Herod was going to kill Him. Jesus responds by telling them to go warn a nearby fox (sarcasm) and then joked about how prophets never get killed outside of Jerusalem (sarcasm again).

            Also the Valley of Hinnon or Gehenna was not a place where they burned trash. That’s actually a myth. Search ‘myth gehenna trash dump’ and you’ll find a bunch of recent scholarship on it. The valley is referred to by Jesus because of what happened there in the Old Testament (pagan idol worshippers burned their children there – 2 Kgs 23:10; 2 Chr 28:3, 33:6; Jer 32:35). In his day it was a legitimate term that was synonymous with Hell. You can see this in context because in the parable Jesus gives us the setting:

            “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” – Matthew 25:31-32

            I doesn’t make sense that Jesus was simply talking about a burning trash dump at the end of time, nor does it line up with what happened in AD 70.

          • KentonS

            You seem to striking at a straw man there, Aaron. I never said that Gehenna was a place where they burned trash. (Is that even relevant?) If you’re gonna contrast your position with mine you at least need to represent my position accurately.

            Also, you might want to check your facts on what happened in AD 70. You can start with Josephus’ “War of the Jews” Book 6 and especially Chapter 9. The total dead after the Romans came in was over 1,000,000 Jews. The stench of death was overwhelming so they burned the bodies pretty much everywhere, and Gehenna would have been an obvious place for at least some of the bodies to have been burned.

          • Aaron Matthew Hill

            I’m well aware of the history of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. I have been to seminary. I am a teaching pastor.

            I didn’t think I was misrepresenting your stance on Gehenna. You said:

            “That understanding of Jesus’ words about hell changes the game and is hardly the same as ignoring them.”

            “That understanding” about the comments other people had made about burning bodies and the Roman invasion is all tied to that idea of Gehenna being a place where they burned trash and cremated dead bodies. That was what I was referring to. Sorry if I assumed that’s what you were talking about.

          • J

            just curious. where are the passages you’re referring to?

          • KentonS

            Lazarus is Luke 16. The “He who calls his brother a fool” passage is Matthew 5. The gehenna passages are throughout the book of Matthew, but chpt 25 is kind of the go-to place for them. (It is the most “extreme” – for lack of a better word – passage.)

    • http://www.morphblog.net/ Lindsey Harts

      You should read his series on Hell. Or listen to the most recent “That God Show” episode.

  • ahermit

    “L’enfer c’est les autres”

    • KentonS

      Surtout dans ce fil

    • Agni Ashwin

      “Après moi, le déluge.” — Noah

      • ahermit

        “Ja. Jetzt Kommt die Flut” – Peter Gabriel

  • Markopolo

    Are you saying you don’t believe in any type of hell? Or separation from God after death? No punishment for not believing in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ?

  • MesKalamDug

    As I see it – ANYTHING forever is hell. That includes all the notions of heaven you might have. i don’t see any possibility of any human being (prophets and messiahs included) telling us what happens after death. But whatever it is it cannot possibly be forever. Eventually we must all drift away and disappear. Perhaps the evil part
    of one of us vanishes immediately. Perhaps the ghost of Adolph Hitler still paints water colors and has forgotten the third reich.

  • http://www.ehendrick.org/pastoralcare/index.htm Kevin W. Bridges

    This is one of your best articles of all time!

  • Kevin

    It has been just a little over a year since I stopped believing in a literal place called hell. I wouldn’t say I gave it up though, I’d say I discovered the truth.

    • Markopolo

      Do you believe in any type of hell? Or separation from God? For those who do not believe in Jesus Christ and have Him as their savior? I am trying to understand if Kurt is saying there is not any type of separation or punishment or ANYTHING for non believers.

      • Trevor

        I thought he was pretty clear. He gave two options as to what he believes will happen to non believers. Either they will cease to exist, or they will be judged and be have a post-mortem reconciliation with Christ. Ceasing to exist for would be separation.

        • Markopolo

          Calm down bro. Just trying to understand. Isn’t that the point? The gospel should be simple enough for anyone and everyone? Not just for the educated…and seemingly aggressive.

  • summers-lad

    “Without hell, all we have to offer people is heaven.” Brilliant!!

  • JW

    Why does the author assume that people stop sinning in hell? They continue to be in rebellion and hatred against God, hence eternal punishment.

  • Brandon Roberts

    It’s an interesting idea and yo make a lot of good points. But I’m unsure on the idea of hell frankly I couldn’t care less about it

    • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

      Brandon – “I couldn’t care less about it.” AMEN.

      The truth is that no one knows how salvation works. It’s unknowable. Any atonement theory is nothing more than a theological folly – our best guess at what’s in the dim mirror. We’ve been given this life to live and the people around us to love.

      I’ve shared this quote often, but I think it’s appropriate here too, so I’ll share it again. From Rabbi Martin Buber:

      God does not want to be believed in, nor be debated and defended by us, but simply to be realized through us.

  • Jill

    The second paragraph of this piece completely misunderstands and misstates the Bible’s message of salvation, which is not based on either mental assent to facts or on subsequent mandated actions. A correct understanding of this foundational truth will not result in the dangerous idea of giving up hell.

  • JW

    You can only arrive at this interpretation of the bible by cherry picking verses and twisting their interpretation.

    Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

    The author is saying don’t fear hell and Jesus is saying to fear God who can destroy you in hell. And no, the word destroy does not mean annihilate but is the Greek word appolumi which means great loss or ruin.

    Will you believe the author or Jesus?

  • Raz162

    Interesting article. The concept of eternal torment in Hell is one of the things that drove me away from Christianity. How is infinite punishment for a finite “crime” possibly justified? What happened to the 200,000 years of humans who lived prior to Jesus? Is it just to punish someone for eternity for not believing in something for which there is scant evidence, and faith is required? Do humans never exposed to Christianity get a “pass”?

    “Hell” being non-existence makes much more sense, but this seems to be the less popular viewpoint. I know they are likely a minority, but there is a subset of Christians who seem to take a certain amount of pleasure in knowing their unsaved fellow humans will be eternally punished for their disbelief.

    “The blessed in the kingdom of heaven will see the
    punishments of the damned, in order that their bliss be more delightful
    for them.”

    -Thomas Aquinas

    Really?

  • sigzero

    “My current view is that those who die without a connection to Christ are simply dead” Sadly the Bible tells a totally different view of Hell and the dead apart from Christ.

  • Charles Riley

    Hello Kurt, I enjoyed your article. I believe that I probably fall into the traditionalist category when it comes to hell. I lean toward hell being a place of torment forever and ever and at the least I believe it is total separation from God at death. The New Testament teaches after death comes judgment so something certainly happens. Total separation from God at least for me equals torment for eternity. The other point I wanted to make is that when I have shared Christ with people hell is really not in the back of my mind. I don’t think I have ever tried to scare anyone into heaven. I know that I have shared God’s love and have tried to love people into heaven. My old mentor, pastor, professor and recently retired president of Jessup University told me when I was a freshman “what you win a person with is what you win them to.” So if we scare people with hell that’s what we have won them with is fear and fear is not Jesus. If we win them with love that is Jesus. There was a beautiful old piece of poetry by a Muslim Lord written a long time ago where a man was narrating his love for God. He said that if he was to give himself to God for fear of hell instead of love of God then we deserved hell because we missed the entire point of the Bible. It’s probably better if you could read the poem but I can’t remember the name or the author. Anyway that was the idea. God love you Kurt. Corky

  • bobmead1960

    Very interesting. As someone that is just finishing an apologetic for the way to God, if there is one? Yes, there are many poor examples of Christians. But in the almost 2,000 people I talked to research and LEARN from for this book Hell was never the problem because I never talked about it. Rarely do any Christians talk about hell except when warning people of danger they may face for eternity. The real issue is the means and message of the Christian message. Do we speak in a language that all can understand? NO! Is the service in a manner that the next generation would enjoy and learn from? NO! So in a way you are right that the church must change. But you must remember what the word salvation or saved means? To be rescue from peril or imminent danger. Christians need to speak a message of how to spend eternity with God – a positive message. But my book does prove why hell is an actual place and the reasons for the punishment being justified. Good day. Thought provoking.

    • KentonS

      “Hell was never the problem because I never talked about it.”

      Beg to differ there. Hell may have been the giant elephant in the room. At least I believe that was often the case in my experience. Just because you don’t talk about it doesn’t mean the message hasn’t been communicated. If you ask most folks what Evangelical Christians believe, they will tell you that hell is in the belief system.

      “But you must remember what the word salvation or saved means? To be rescue from peril or imminent danger.”

      Yes, but there can be peril/imminent danger without the threat of hellfire. The result of not buying into Jesus’ message (think the sermon on the mount) can result in a world where humanity destroys itself. In *this* life.

      • bobmead1960

        But you are not dealing with the issue of heaven/hell by saying nothing of relevance. Maybe all people know there is a place of good and bad for everyone to go.

    • Ken Steckert

      See Kyle Sigmon’s post above. When Jesus talked to “sinners” there was no mention of hell, but there was mention of eternal life. From what I see of Jesus in the gospels, salvation is to life in God instead of life for self, not salvation from hell. I do not recall Jesus using the word salvation, but rather kingdom of God and eternal life. Jesus called people to follow him which meant giving up everything else (to one person that meant family, to another selling everything he had for couple examples; Jesus did not give a formulaic answer as has become the Christian religion way of approaching salvation). Along the lines of what Kyle stated, the only people I see Jesus attempting to see themselves as sinners were the religious people with right beliefs attending the synagogues (church). To those outside, I cannot think of one instance where Jesus makes any effort to make them acknowledge their sin. It makes a bit of sense to me then that the people who followed Jesus seemed to primarily be the poor and outcast because they were willing to try another life as it might be better. I sure do not see where Jesus was attempting to convert all around him; actually when the crowds got large there are at least two occasions where Jesus speaks in a way that questions why they have come and the number of followers diminish. The only fear Jesus put into them was that of having to lose their life, not that there would be hell to pay one day.

      • bobmead1960

        You might want to read John 4 I believe the Woman at the well. Jesus majorly confronted her lifestyle and choices by putting out there in the open. Jesus talked more about hell than heaven. Check it out. It is about a 2 -1 ratio. Or you advocating that there is no hell? Jesus also spoke to the rich young ruler and Lazarus, Mary and Martha are well off. You might want to read the Parable of the Talents and see where Jesus said the 3rd servant went. Good day

        • Ken Steckert

          John 4 – Hell is mentioned nowhere. Jesus never calls her a sinner or speaks damning words to her, unlike how he speaks to the Pharisees in Matthew 23.

          To the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 no mention of hell; rather as I noted above, it was the fear of losing his life, life as he knew it, that kept him from following Jesus.

          I am guessing with Lazarus you are referring to the parable of Lazarus and a rich man. How do you pick and choose what to take literally here – do you think people in heaven have conversations with people in hell?

          Why do people state Jesus speaks more about hell than heaven? I find many teachings on the kingdom of heaven. In the gospels heaven is used in 129 verses; hell in 15 (KJV; in NASV the count is 118 to 11).

          I am not sure what I believe about hell. There is definitely some teaching by Jesus and allegories in Revelation, which I think many take far more literal than they were written seeing it is apocalyptic literature, such that I do not just write it off. However, in the history of the church in Acts and throughout the epistles there is one mention of hell by James and one by Peter. That is it. Hell was not the reality that I find the focus of Jesus or the very early church; rather the reality that was the focus was life in Jesus, with no scare tactics of hell. I tend to think the reason for this is because their concern was with LIFE, not death.

          • bobmead1960

            Ok you said that Jesus didn’t point out people’s sin other than the Pharisees. I pointed out the woman at the well – Jesus states that she had four husbands and was living with a man now. If that is not confrontational about someone’s sin I don’t know what is.
            The rich young ruler asked what shall I do to enter the Kingdom of heaven? He had kept all the commandments since a youth. Seemingly a very upright person of great moral stature. Very commendable. Jesus says sell all that he had and follow him. When someone is seeking heaven, certainly Jews knew of heaven and hell, and would want to secure that destination.
            You make a great question about Luke 16 about the conversation between hell and sheol (Ephesians 4 “Jesus went down and preached to the captive and led them to freedom”) . Sheol was a “holding tank” for Old Testament saints and even sinners guilty. The reason was that no price had been paid for salvation – Jesus work on the cross. But this encounter is a conversation with Abraham who is now in paradise with lazarus. the rich man’s name was kept out to probably to keep the family name from insult and shame.
            this will be a shocker to you, I am writing a current apologetic book with 2 more in the making, and the last one is hopefully to be called “A Picture of Heaven.” It will portray that people can go from heaven to hell to visit loved ones in torment for a temporary easing of their pain. Their visits I believe will be very irregular due to the command to no tear will spill in heaven.
            The conversation by the people from heaven will bring some temporarily relief to those in hell. the person from heaven could not stay long because it would bring them so “down.” they can’t meet in a close proximity because of the chasm, Luke 16.
            Revelation is not a book of allegories – a spiritual message. It is based on prophecy and since mankind is limited in its knowledge and language John is prohibited to explain the events fully by representation or similes.
            Good talk! My first book is a great answer for your questions. It is written for men in the language and nuances in the way they think in every day language called “Come on MAN! Speak English to ME about GOD! Because it is harder for men to be spiritual than women.

          • Ken Steckert

            With the woman at the well, Jesus never calls her a “sinner.” What I find in much of Christianity today is the need to convince someone they are a sinner. I do not see that with Jesus. Yes, he says she has had multiple husbands and is currently with a man to whom she is not married. But unlike what the religious people of Jesus’ day or many I know in the church today would do, Jesus does not seem bent on convincing her of specific sins. However, with the religious people in Matthew 23 Jesus speaks pulls no punches and makes sure they are clear what he thinks of their pride.

            With the rich young ruler, again Jesus never names a single sin, and certainly never mentions hell, but confronts him with the fact he must leave the life he knows for a life that is quite insecure by his standards of security. This is what I find to be the primary way in which Jesus confronts us – no formulaic prayer and belief system, but a radical life change of other-centered love.

            I take a preterist understanding of Revelation. Obviously, you take a more literal approach.

            We have a few differences; I am ok with that. From what I can tell in this conversation we are both on a journey through life with a desire to follow Jesus. To whom does God look – “to the one who is humble and contrite of spirit and who trembles at my word” (Is. 66:2). May we be in that group!

  • Kyle Sigmon

    I agree with the heart of this article. I think it is really important to remember that Jesus mostly threatened the religious with hell, not the “sinners” or what we may call the “nones” of our day. If we call ourselves religious than we should take Jesus’ warnings against our own self-righteousness seriously but seek to offer only grace and love to others.

  • MN Mom

    Good piece, Kurt, but I think we are called to go one step further. Christianity needs to play down the entire question of the afterlife. Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God being “at hand” — i.e. available in the here and now — not after death. Playing down the whole issue of the afterlife would bring us back to what Jesus focused on — loving your neighbor in all of the ways he outlined in Matthew 25.

  • TimTripod

    It seems to me that your post could be summarized as follows: “I know some people believe in hell, but that is so not a cool thing to talk about, dude. Just give me some Jesus — no, not the sayings of Jesus [Matt. 10:28, Matt. 25:31-46, Luke 16:19-31, etc.] — just some nice, warm n’ fuzzy Jesus!”

    Your post brings 2 Timothy 4:1-4 to mind.
    Regardless of how you may feel about my interpretations, hopefully you will at least admit that the “let’s all just be friends” angle isn’t going to convince anyone who believes the Bible teaches about a literal place called hell.

  • Jim

    Of the 7 billion people in the world, 5 billion are not Christians. If Jesus is the only path to Heaven, then, according to you, those 5 billi0on non-Christians are doomed to Hell. That does not sound like the work of a loving God. When I was in the seminary we were told that Hell has no locus.
    That is, it is a state of spiritual being in the presence of God.
    Believers in life after death tell us that consciousness, comprehension and
    awareness reside in an immortal soul that they imagine. Those who suffer some types of brain damage, such as victims of advanced Alzheimer’s disease, have little or no consciousness, comprehension and awareness. If the soul has these attributes, why are they lost when the brain does not function properly? The brain, not the heart or the imagined immortal soul, is the seat of consciousness, comprehension and awareness. Believers cannot understand the atheist belief that death is the end of all existence, because when the brain is dead nothing more can be experienced — not Heaven, not Hell.

  • gerrymander

    Simple question to ask: how could the Bible be so vague on a subject as important as our eternal fate that it can support fire and brimstone torment, annihilationism and universalism?

    • charlesburchfield

      possibly the bible is full of propaganda? the reason why i say that is b/c of the ppl who use it that way.

  • BigDutchman

    I’m sorry. I couldn’t disagree more. Thank you for the provocative article. It has many fine points, and I agree that focusing too much on Hell can be damaging. But avoiding it altogether has it own set of problems: injustice, tyranny, mediocrity, etc.

  • Sarah

    Just ignoring all the comments because some are so hurtful. I just want to say Kurt, that I have been so hurt by religion but you actually give me some hope and peace. Thank you for what you write.

  • http://geographer70.wordpress.com/ Ian B

    An interesting discussion. I went to Moody Bible Institute in the mid-80s; our training in evangelism was foundational and based on the reality of hell. My perspective on the matter was that although I believe in hell, even then I found it did not work (today) as a motivational tool to get people to talk about God. Almost everyone I knew who used it during evangelism did so badly: almost everyone I knew who were converted to avoid hell (Jesus as “fire insurance”) had a superficial relationship with God and ultimately fell away. (I continue to see this general rule portrayed to this day, in my church friendships and through online blogs like this one.) Such imagery and discussion apparently worked in Jesus’ day: not so in the modern world.

    Interestingly, I was in a discussion with other graduates from my class a few years ago: one of us said that they didn’t believe God would really send people to hell as it had been portrayed. Most of us agreed, slowly. We “came out” to each other as not believing in the “traditional” hell. Although I would tend to believe in hell as the “separation from God” idea, I don’t think many people (any) “are sent” there.

    What I think is ironic is that many people who believe the strongest in hell have lost the ability to see or appreciate anything beyond their own perspective. Their only friends in this life are the ones who believe and act exactly has they do; they conflict with anyone else… and thus few others enjoy being around them. That is one expression of hell: they have built (and are further building) it here on earth, and I’m not sure that will change in the next life. They may “believe” in the 4 Spiritual Laws, but they have chosen their own demise.

    • charlesburchfield

      i mean this in my best possible ironic sense: hell is a place where if you have to go there they have to let you in. (i’m not sure why i said that. i’m not having a bad day particularly)

  • http://www.morphblog.net/ Lindsey Harts

    I love this. My perspective of Hell has evolved over the past year or so. My view of it now is MUCH different from the perspective I learned in church growing up. My relationships with others have been TOTALLY transformed. No more trying to fix them. No hidden agendas. No converting. Just love.

  • Nordic

    The concept of an eternal hell has plagued me since high school, and once I gave up the idea, I felt so free to be the type of Christian described by the NT authors. I realized that the afterlife (aside from my own) is not my worry. My concern is to love my neighbor as myself (after loving God fully). I have relationships with many different people now (including a gay, atheist couple), and I can feel free to love them completely without a hidden agenda. I naturally express my experiences about God with them without trying to convert them. This no hell for a year is a great idea!

    • charlesburchfield

      wow! that truly is good news!

  • Nikolay

    I gave up hell a few months ago, and I gotta say it’s a huge weight off my shoulders. The belief that most humans who have ever lived will be tormented for eternity was very stressful and burdensome for me, and eventually I couldn’t call this type of punishment just. I do feel like my relationships with people of other beliefs have improved, as well as my mental well being. I have much less anxiety around them now.

    • charlesburchfield

      i have had similar relief thank god!!!

    • Guthrum

      Pastors and Christians certainly do not want to risk their friends, loved ones, family, and anyone from spending an eternity in hell. I always ask people when I find the chance to think about if they were in a wreck or had a medical event that took their life, where would they spend eternity ? To those who ask how they can be assured that they will spend it in heaven with Jesus, I tell them to believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be save from the devil and heaven. Jesus promises this to all who believe in Him. Jesus will not and can not break a promise.
      It is shocking that pastors today are staying away from salvation preaching. The Bible warns that many will fall away, and that there will be false prophets. We are in the end times !
      For those of you who have questions, doubts, are confused, or in fear, a goid thing to do is talk to a pastor of a Bible believing church. Read the Bible, especially the Gospels and the letters of St. Paul. (I would recommend a KJV or NKJV Bible) Pray for God to speak to you. He will give you guidance and answers. Visit a church and talk to the people there.

  • Greg

    Ignoring the implications of eternity is responsible and loving? Really??? I’d hate to have that counsel on my record…

    • charlesburchfield

      what do you think are the implications?

      • Greg

        Doesn’t matter what you or I think, it matters what did Jesus said about eternity.

        • charlesburchfield

          like what for an example?

  • chrijeff

    If “God” is a “loving father,” as Christians [claim they] believe, what would be the point of his sending anyone to Hell? To punish them? What is the point of punishment? To teach you not to do whatever-it-was again. But once you’re dead, you *can’t* do it again. So how do you learn, or improve? You don’t. Unless “God” gets personal satisfaction from condemning the non-believers, it just doesn’t make any sense.

    Now if, on the other hand, Hell is owned by the Other Side, and is a place where it *rewards* people (like, say, Hitler) who came close to accomplishing its plan for humanity…that I can believe. Old Adolf is probably a pretty high-ranking demon today.

  • Kevin Ruffcorn

    Can we evangelically spread the hope of heaven?

    • charlesburchfield

      how or what do you mean ‘evangellically’?

  • Greg

    Just curious, if hell is eliminated where do people who reject God go?

    • charlesburchfield

      i am curious why you ask that

      • Greg

        Because it is a logical question.

    • lou77

      I suppose they will be with everyone and Jesus.

  • sandraleesmith46

    So… given the current status of world conditions, this author believes we should simply abandon the unsaved to hell. Wow, what a guy! On the other hand, he may well find himself,answering for a LOT of lost souls, but cause their deaths will be on his head too! I guess he missed that in Ezekiel…

    • charlesburchfield

      i wonder if there are some ppl in your life that you do not forgive?

      • sandraleesmith46

        PreciselyWHAT has that to do with the issue of abandoning sinners to hell?

        • charlesburchfield

          i think if you mite be like your god: unforgiving.

          • sandraleesmith46

            Deflection; I asked what that has to do with the topic at hand and my post; you make an assumption, knowing neither myself, nor my God, but failed to answer the question.

          • charlesburchfield

            is it more important to be right or happy?

          • sandraleesmith46

            Again deflection. Clearly you’re either incapable of, or unwilling to answer a simple question. Neither of those choices applies.

          • charlesburchfield

            i forget what were we talking about.

          • sandraleesmith46

            Why am I not surprised? Don’t strain yourself reading back

          • charlesburchfield

            so what were we talking about?

  • http://www.unapologetic-conjecture.blogspot.com/ WRIGHTWORD

    I appreciated the article’s sentiment. My mom encouraged me to share my reply here, too. http://thesumofourgods.com/2015/02/giving-up-on-hell-isnt-enough/

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      I responded on your blog. Thanks for the post. I think you make some grand assumptions about my theology and interpretive method, but I appreciated the post nonetheless.

  • Weemaryanne

    Silly question: When the year is over and your NonBeliever friends ask “so, are we still going to hell?” — what are you planning to tell them?

    • lou77

      if I had any friends i’d say that; ‘ there is no hell and you never were going to any place of eternal torment.’

  • Morgan

    I couldn’t agree more, and have personally given Hell up, hopefully, forever.

    The first three fruits of the Holy Spirit are Love, Joy and Peace. That’s what we should be. I’m as guilty as anyone of blowing it, BTW.

    It takes a real effort not to judge, hate, write nasty comments and be an ass just because I feel like it. But that’s how we keep Hell away, and the more we care about others, the less Hell seems to be an issue.

  • yewtree

    Probably the single biggest relief when I stopped being an evangelical Christian (at the age of 15) was not believing in hell any more. The entire concept hurt my heart.

    There are so many arguments for universalism and/or apocatastasis, without even having to leave the Christian tradition.

  • http://jesuschristchurch.com/ Free Bible

    thanks for sharing this great article, God bless you!

  • lou77

    our resident troll is having a manic episode I think. he is really unwell. please don’t egg him on like i’m doing. there, I’ve stopped now…

  • Bingo

    This article represents unbalanced theology. Typical universalist nonsense.

  • Janice Brantner

    Kurt, my view is very close to yours, with the exception that I don’t believe the conditions after the resurrection will be unpleasant for all who were unbelievers in this life. I think that for those who lived their lives by loving principles but just couldn’t have faith for many different reasons, they will accept the truth with joy and make good progress in the kingdom. Those who have actually been evil would have it much harder. The evil in their hearts would probably be very hard to get rid of and some as you say may end up being eliminated. I don’t consider the view of reconciliation after death to be speculative at all, in fact I see more evidence for it than for the more traditional views. I learned this as a child from the book The Divine Plan of the Ages by CT Russell. It was written about 130 years ago and is still in print.

  • charlesburchfield

    To be honest all I have is a relationship w/ my higher power. I am relatively sane and sober b/c of it & have the testimony of other alkies & and drug addicts who are alive today after having the experience of physical and moral degeneracy. I went to church decades b/f I became a last stage alkie. I said all the right words, read my bible obsessivly, had my fav preachers. I convinced myself I had ‘put on Christ’ but all I had done was added yet another addiction. Fast forward to today & I honestly don’t know what happens after I die. I don’t think anybody does or can. I’m just plodding along, alive here in a body that’s getting older by the second. I try to love everybody. I try to understand & have empathy and be honest w/ everybody. I think that to the degree that I am in my recovery I can do this b/c Jesus helps me. I know that if I was more active in my addictions I couldn’t do that.

  • Uber Genie

    So…first ime reading your blog and it is both intriguing and contraversial. Good start. What if someone held a traditional (eternal punishment) view of hell but still treated people with great care and respect?

    What if through that care and some hard intellectual work, prayer, and preparing how to answer common objections in a dispassionate, caring way that was led by the spirit not some paint by numbers evangelism methodology?

    What if because you were their friend for months, years, decades ( on my 34th year with one friend currently) you waited patiently for the Holy Spirit to prompt them and then carefully responded to their questions.

    I think you are getting at the right problem,namely the lack of authenticy in our relationships with individuals that don’t share our faith. But I think the hell thing is an offshoot of spiritually and intellectually undeveloped Christians. As pastors try and focus on growth in numbers rather than teaching people to teach themselves, they lock people into relying on the pastor’s “great teaching,” which they promptly forget by breakfast Monday morning.

    On my view above, Christians remain baby Christians there entire lives in the US. They never become disciples. If that lack of maturity is the root cause then a formulaic, inauthentic witness is all you would expect out of a baby. Their view of hell could disappear altogether and you would not solve the maturity problem. Taking hell out of the converstion does create the appearance of more respect for the nonbelievers view but if my root cause is correct the person witnessing has not actually gained any respect, just the appearance.

    Finally, the approach of the utility of an idea on relationships seems to be the wrong approach to determining what is true about hell. If you are an idealist and believe that only minds exist then your point might be valid. But on realism, I would never take the approach of determining something was true or false based on the effect people’s changed beliefs have on their behavior.

    Objective truths are independent of subjects. Namely, Christian subjects spouting the four spiritual laws to their unsuspecting non-believing friends. Hell is objectively either eternal punishment, annihilation, or neither (universalism), independent of any of our beliefs about hell.

  • Bob

    Just my luck, Jesus will be standing somewhere in the shadows and then tell his dad…what then?

  • cipher

    It’s a laudable idea, but it will go nowhere. As you can see from the responses posted here by conservatives who queued up in line to lash out at you, no one is more indignant or self-righteous than a Christian who’s being threatened with having his torture porn taken away.

    What you fail to understand is that there are millions of Christians (I’m convinced that within the conservative evangelical subculture, it’s the vast majority) who want billions of their fellow human beings to spend eternity in hell. It’s what they live for.

    • charlesburchfield

      I know & it just makes me sad, mad & sick in my heart. But what can be done?

  • don’t worry bout it

    im a christian but this kind of sounds right. I think that being a christian your already suppose to be in this type of mind set where you never have to worry about hell.. but I do not know if this will work for me. Because hell is always in the back of my mind. Plus at end times like these im not so sure.

    • charlesburchfield

      respect, DW bt it, who first told you that hell is eternal torment?

      • don’t worry bout it

        I didn’t say anything about external torment.. But I know that it is I read the bible

      • don’t worry bout it

        I didn’t say anything about eternal torment. But I read the bible I know that hell is eternal torment.

        • charlesburchfield

          Boy howdy! Doesn’t that make god a meanie!

  • The Bohemian

    I just found this article today. I love it. I gave it up decades ago – I’m shy and have few friends – but those people are my friends. It doesn’t matter what they believe. If they are not people of faith, they hear about God when it is natural in a conversation with a friend to mention faith or prayer. In other words, I don’t try to hide it, but I don’t advertise it. When they ask questions, I tell them more. If they are already people of faith that have been beaten down by life, I feed them steady doses of love, encouragement, hope.