A Sincere Question For My Friends Who Believe In Hell

A Sincere Question For My Friends Who Believe In Hell September 1, 2015

Would you torture your own child?

Here on the blog and That God Show, we’ve talked quite a bit about the concept of hell and have gone in-depth as to why I believe hell is not a biblical teaching.

Yet, even using scripture as the foundation for a hell-free eschatological and theological viewpoint, many Christians are completely unwilling to reconsider their views on hell in light of what the Bible teaches. Why this is the case, I have no idea. One would think that folks would flock to the opportunity to let go of hell, but apparently the traditional doctrine on hell is a beloved doctrine of many Christians.

The traditional view on hell, as we all know, is something called Eternal Conscious Torment. This view holds that those who die without being justified in Christ will go to a literal place called hell where they will be tortured by fire day and night, forever. It’ll be, as the doctrine goes, a place where you live with the Devil and his angels, where the fire never stops burning you, and where there is no relief from the pain– ever. You don’t fall asleep, you don’t die, you don’t briefly lose consciousness from the pain. In this version of hell you will be tortured day and night for all of eternity– billions and billions of years on top of billions and billions of years, without end. (All while being forced to listen to Country music.)

My interaction with Christians who believe this has led me to a question. An important question. A question I ask in all sincerity as the first installment of my new series, Sincere Questions.

 If you believe in the traditional view of hell, I’d ask you to consider this question:

Which one of your children would you be willing to torture with fire?

If God is altogether wonderful, beautiful, and all-loving, it would follow that everything he does is wonderful, beautiful, and all-loving. Therefore, there must be something wonderful, beautiful, and all-loving about torturing people with fire and preventing them from having any escape from the pain of those flames.

If torture with fire is anything less than wonderful, loving and beautiful, God would be less than wonderful, loving or beautiful.

So, which one of your children would you be willing to torture with fire as a punishment for not loving you back or misbehaving?

Can you list for me which disobedient acts you would consider worthy of subjecting your child to this kind of torture? Are their certain acts that would prompt you to get out a blowtorchImage-1 and go to town on them? My teenager once told me she hated me and wished I wasn’t her dad, and I have to admit, setting her on fire didn’t cross my mind because I loved her in that moment anyway.

Is there anything your child could do that would cause you to turn them over to ISIS to be punished by burning? That’s an important modern connection, because given the traditional doctrine on hell, the only people I see mimicking this version of God, is ISIS.

Is there anything your child could do that would make you lock them in a dark room, turn up the heat until it burns their flesh, and then gleefully listen to their screams for the rest of their life?

I can’t imagine you would, because that’s both sick and evil. I’ve met a lot of crappy parents in my life, but I’ve never met anyone who would do that to their own child– anyone who would do so would rightly be considered either mentally insane or depraved in an especially disgusting way.

Or, what if God allowed you to sit on his throne and judge your own children– giving you the authority to determine their eternal fate. Do you have any wayward children you’d pick to be sent to hell? Or, would you show them a lavish grace and mercy that flowed from your love for them?

I think I know what you’d do.

So, if we were to assume for a moment that the traditional view of hell were true, that would lead us to another interesting set of questions:

Are you more loving than God? Because you love your children so much you’d never do that.

Are you more merciful than God? I’m assuming you find the image of your own child being eternally tortured by flames to be an unbearable image– one that would leave you crying and screaming for someone to show mercy.

This of course, begs the ultimate question: How could we be more loving and merciful than God?

I don’t think we could– but if hell is real, most of us certainly are more loving and merciful than God. And that right there is a good sign we need to rethink our ideas about hell– because I believe God’s ability to love will dwarf ours any day of the week.

And so this is my question for you, my hell believing friends: which one of your own children would you be willing to subject to torture by fire? If you are too loving and merciful to do that to your own children, why do you believe God is less loving than you are?

I ask in all sincerity that you ponder this, because if you really think it over, the traditional doctrine of hell should lead to some very, very troubling conclusions about God– conclusions that I believe must be strongly rejected.

(You can find the rest of my ongoing series on hell, here.)

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  • Gordie LaChance

    I agree, Ben. I think a lot of our issues with heaven & hell are due to our desire to eliminate contradictions in Scripture and to make a cohesive narrative between the two testaments (and even within the Old Testament).

    Maybe Scripture reflects an evolving culture with evolving ideas? And those ideas include heaven and hell. Then I think we’re able to say, “yeah, we don’t really know either, but here’s what we think. But most importantly, we pursue Christ either way, right?”

  • bikootbean

    In my discussions with people who still cling to this doctrine, what they always end up going back to is God’s holiness. God’s righteousness. And how we can’t say what WE would do because we’re evil to the core and cannot fathom how offensive our sin is to a holy, righteous God.

    I grew up believing in hell. I credit it with keeping me terrified enough to keep going to church. But as I have grown, I don’t see how it can coexist with Jesus. It just doesn’t make sense.

  • Amy Louise

    I see what you are saying. Coming at it from that angle I can see your point. God gave us a free will. He doesn’t force us to love him. I still believe in Hell not as something God created as a punishment but as a natural consequence of not being justified by Christ. Our children have free will. We don’t want them to come to harm and sometimes even when they make foolish choices they are saved from themselves. We tell our children not to do drugs, that they are dangerous. We try everything we can to keep them from them but sometimes they exert their free will and do drugs anyway. Some do not pay the price for doing drugs and some live their life in an altered way because of the drugs and some even die. Do we want any of these things to happen to our children? No we do not. I think it is much the same with hell. However, my view of who goes to hell is probably much broader than most.

  • I don’t hold the traditional doctrine of hell…the one you describe here. However, I’m not sure that your question is the nail in the coffin for the traditional view either. If God were only loving and merciful, then yeah, the traditional view of hell wouldn’t make sense. But one of the foundational arguments for the traditional view is that God is more than loving and merciful–he is also holy and just. In the traditional view, it is not his children that he sends to hell. The case could be made that you’re confusing categories.

    I think you’re on the right track, though. If Christians are going to hold to the traditional view of hell, they must wrestle with the God revealed to us in Jesus. And no, just referencing the famous “hell” passages doesn’t cut it. Those passages are rarely handled with decent exegesis.

    So don’t hear me disagreeing with you necessarily. Just hear me saying that you haven’t dealt with the actual concerns of those who hold the traditional view, namely, the holiness and justice of God. Maybe a future post will go there?

  • Gordie LaChance

    Yeah, but there will always be a defense. As long as someone wants to hold a particular view, there’s always a case to be made, even if it’s a terrible one. If Ben were to disprove God’s holiness/justice as viewed by fundamentalists, they’d either deny or come up with another defense.

    The main problem in my eyes is the widespread belief of perfect cohesion of the Bible. As my earlier comment stated, I think there needs to be an understanding that it’s written by lots of different folks at different times with an evolved understanding of God.

    Think about essays written on baseball, for example. One written in 1901 would read very differently than one written today. You could even read both and see contradictions in how baseball is understood, or in strategy, etc. I think the same goes for the Bible, and that’s ok. It doesn’t make the Bible any less powerful, or beautiful, or God-breathed. But to the fundamentalist, it does.

  • Curtis Martin

    People don’t want to give up hell because of all they have done to avoid it. It’s that simple.

  • James

    There’s nothing holy or just about a plainly psychopathic deity.

  • otrotierra

    Thank you Benjamin. While the myth of Hell certainly infects much of modern Western Christendom, I wonder if hellfire and torture are especially important to religious fundamentalists. After all, religious fundamentalists supported Bush’s preemptory war of choice against God’s children in Iraq and Afghanistan, they did their best to defend torture at Abu Ghraib, they defend concentration camps such as Guantanamo, they defend police brutality and the murdering of unarmed Black people, and they love the recent mass deportation fantasies of Donald Trump and company.

    Hell is actually very real in that fundamentalists fight for its existence right here in the present material world. Religious Fundamentalists don’t have to think about burning their own children. Why? Because Brown bodies of the Global South (and Brown/Black bodies in the Global North) are the daily human sacrifices for their hellfire fundamentalist god.

  • Jack Miller

    I’ve always believed that Hell was just the absence of God in your life. I’ve never needed others to actually burn or melt or listen to country music (though some isn’t that bad so I wouldn’t call it punishment). I talk to God everyday and I have for as long as I can remember. To not have that constant dialogue and connection would truly be one of the worst things I could think of. I really love this post Mr. Corey. I wouldn’t wish to follow a God that would want anyone to suffer in that manner for all of eternity.

  • Greystone

    The problem for me is that the God of the old testament would send us to Hell. He wouldn’t give a second thought on doing that. Jesus did at many times talk about some kind of punishment for those who disobeyed. I decided that I don’t personally believe in Hell but my poor wife has been dealing with these issues since finding out our son is an athiest. Someone from our church even said ” Oh I hope he doesn’t die”. I could see my wifes eyes tearing up. So this is a difficult issue for many people.

  • Keith

    A sincere answer:
    The Gospel of John (1:12) says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” We become “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).
    So the premise of the question is moot. God does not send His children to hell; only those who do not believe.

  • CanIbeFrank

    Wow, way to sidestep the issue.
    Whether or not everyone is considered one of God’s “children,” we are all considered part of God’s creation. That’s the point. if God loves us all, as is what “all-loving” means, then how could that loving, merciful God allow ANY of his creation to spend eternity being tortured??

  • Take the child aspect out of the equation then- I agree, not everyone is a “child of God” because even Jesus taught that only nonviolent enemy lovers are God’s children and that would exclude the majority of the Americanized church. But anyhoo, the ultimate question is: would you torture someone with fire? Would your torture your neighbor’s kid? Would you feel morally content burning someone? Have you seen the ISIS video of the man being burned alive, and if so, did you have any moral objections to doing that to a human being? That’s the real question here– connecting that to people we love was a side issue.

  • CanIbeFrank

    yes, but even if your children do drugs due to their own free choice in the matter, would you want them to have the effects of that drug taking to be eternal conscious torment? Do you actually want that for any human? If you don’t, why would you think God would?

  • CanIbeFrank

    It doesn’t make sense. But the absence of hell is means there’s no repercussions when we die and that can’t sit well with people who base their lives on being more holy (as in “more forgiven”) than others. Saying there’s no hell (as in conscious eternal fiery torment) is nearly blasphemous for some.

  • Herm

    I sincerely answer your question that I have always, in all ways, loved my children more than enough to actually die agonizing on a cross rather than they ever suffer eternally the flames of a never ending fire. Anyone who is so small in their love of others especially their own, witnessed by their self indulgent intimidation of others, does not know our Father in Heaven. They know our Father less than my children who, without ever a spanking, thought I was capable of killing them until they became a mother and a father of their own children. Then, and only then, did they have the true knowledge of the sacrificial love necessary to raise their children to be able to know their parents.

    Since my children have become more capably responsible than their parents for themselves, and theirs, I have learned to focus beyond and actually now would react to choose to die the same for my enemy that they may know our Father and Brother in Heaven … who as One in the Spirit would do the same more capably and no less than I.

    Thank you Ben!

  • Herm

    In the spirit mankind is the spawn in the image of God. No less cared for than I love my children who were given the opportunity, responsibility and struggle of free will life without a choice to accept or reject. The are not responsible for me as I was not their choice as they were mine. God does not send Their spawn to hell, ignorant or not. Sincerely!

  • Nimblewill

    We can circumnavigate you question by saying that those who will be punished aren’t God’s children. But to answer the question: I couldn’t do it to anyone. Period.

  • But if your children were about to do something that would end them up in eternal torture, and you had the power to stop it, wouldn’t you? Or even short of that – if you could flip the magic switch that would wipe out their heroin addiction, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t there come a point at which the gravity of the consequences outweighs the value of letting them do their own thing?

    I mean, I do get that it’s valuable to let children make their mistakes and deal with the consequences – it’s part of learning to be a responsible adult. But there’s certainly a limit to the consequences I’d be willing to let me child experience for the purposes of learning a lesson.

    And with Hell, it’s even worse, because they don’t learn a lesson. It’s over. It’s the last mistake they’ll ever make.

  • I couldn’t do this to my children. I couldn’t do this to ISIS.

    While I could imagine someone being so evil and doing something so terrible that, in my nature, I would want them to suffer for it, I cannot comprehend putting someone in an oven forever. It hurts me just thinking about it. No matter how much they scream or repent or cry, they just have to stay in it forever. Ugh.

  • Nimblewill

    Most from the traditional view would say that “God doesn’t send anyone to hell, they choose it themselves.” His love makes Him Holy and Just.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    What is wrong with that person from your church? That’s almost sociopathic . . .

    On topic: your wife should check out some C.S. Lewis if she’s really struggling. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he was actually a lot more progressive than any of my evangelical friends led me to believe — despite some eye-rolling statements that I had to remind myself came from around the 1940s. (He believed in evolution! Suck on that, fundies! . . . Sorry, that wasn’t very Christlike.) Personally, as someone who struggles with reconciling God and hell, The Great Divorce, while fiction, was a really powerful read that made me question a lot of assumptions.

  • Greystone

    You’d have to show that those first century christians didn’t believe
    in a hell where the unbelieving suffered. I personaly don’t think that
    those earlier Christians had a problem with the concept. Wasn’t there
    a gradual progression toward the end of the Old Testament era and
    into the first century where this was starting to become a common thread
    of thinking. I do believe that Jesus wasn’t “all knowing” and bought
    into the concept as well. But dare we say that Jesus was wrong?

  • Linda

    My opinion previously posted regarding this discussed has changed due to my recommitment to Jesus Christ.

  • CroneEver

    To me, the absence of hell doesn’t mean no repercussions when we die. Personally – and I am not Catholic – I believe in something like purgatory. Darned if I know what form it takes, and I try not to speculate about it. But I believe that God has the love, the tools, and the eternity to get us, grow us, heal us into the person that we were created to be.

  • And that is the ultimate point– who would do this to anyone? I wouldn’t do this to my worst enemy.

  • Suzanne Pontius

    I would love not to believe in an eternal conscious hell. There are people I don’t like, but I would not choose to torture them for eternity. BUT I come up against Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus. What do we do with that?

  • SamHamilton

    God has the power to stop all sorts of bad things from happening here on earth, right? Maybe Hell isn’t forever. “Every knee shall bow…etc.”

  • SamHamilton

    I think you’re on the right track Amy.

  • SamHamilton

    Jesus describes Hell as a place of fire and torture. Perhaps He’s not being literal, but I don’t blame people for thinking about Hell as a pretty awful place to be. And I certainly wouldn’t call it unBiblical to believe such a thing, as it comes from the mouth of our Lord, the man we claim to follow. I certainly think it’s possible that Jesus wasn’t talking literally, but it still sounds like Hell is place one would want to avoid. And let’s not forget, it’s not God who casts us there, but we who choose to go there by our denial of God. And maybe it’s not forever.

    Perhaps I need to go read Mr. Corey’s prior comments to see what he makes of Jesus’ words.

  • Linda

    What about the parable of throwing the first stone or the prodigal son? Examples of non-judgement and forgiveness. Not only was the prodigal son forgiven but he was taken back in and given the same treatment as the son who never went astray.

  • Well, it’s a parable. By definition, it’s a fictional story to make a point. In that story, the man in Hell also can speak freely with the man in “Abraham’s bosom,” and that man has the power to send some kind of heavenly delegate to warn people.

    In various intertestamental books, we find eternal fire used as a metaphor for the punishment for the tyrants who oppress Israel – the worst of the worst of God’s enemies. In Jesus’ parable, it’s a rich man.

  • SamHamilton

    Have you ever known anyone in this life who is living a life or torment or their own personal hell? Why would God allow that but couldn’t possibly allow something like that to exist in the afterlife, even for a period of time?

  • Jordan

    The dogmatic belief in an eternal penal torture chamber, I suspect, is often subconscious admission that one does not really love Jesus. One cannot love if the alternative is eternal punishment by the one demanding love.

  • Suzanne Pontius

    That’s a good point. Thank you.

  • Suzanne Pontius

    Thank you. That makes sense to me.

  • Yup– and for some reason it’s the only parable people insist on interpreting like it wasn’t a parable.

  • Imago Dei

    Or the Jewish settler terrorists that burned the Palestinian family alive as they slept in their home then laughed about it knowing they would not be punished. Surely only evil is capable of committing such evil. If God is love, would or could a loving God even in the name of justice do this for eternity?

  • Here are some problems with your argument (and I’ll move quickly because I know I won’t de-convince you):

    1. You’re basically saying that if you and God disagree on the nature of love, God is the one who is wrong. Tell me that again in 1,000 years (or tell me anything else, for that matter).
    2. You’re saying that the relationship between God and man is akin to parent and child. It isn’t. There is NO relationship between humans that can truly compare to the relationship between God and man. When I am considering the true distance between myself and God, the most apt comparison I can make is between myself and the main character of my novel. And I killed the main character of my novel. And I didn’t shed a single tear.
    3. You ask if we would send our children to fiery torture. If you wanted, you could construct the analogy like this: “If your children are in fiery torture, would you make a way out for them?” You didn’t do that, because it’s easier to drop Hell if God is “pushing you into it” and not “offering you a way out of it that you can take or not take.”
    4. I would send ALL my children to Hell–if God told me to. Kinda like how Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. Kinda like how God sacrificed Jesus. Seriously, “why did God allow Jesus to die” is a MUCH better argument against a loving God than “why does God allow selfish, spiteful, hypocritical, unbelieving people to been apart from Him the way they want?”

  • Maura Hart

    your loving benevolent god has a list of rules which you must follow exactly. if you don’t: eternal hellfire!! that seems harsh but oh boy thank goodness those original 613 laws just got throw out somehow!!! but not only does he love you, punishable by eternal fire if you don’t love him back, he needs money badly. your money. lots and lots of money. poor god seems a contridiction in omnipotency terms.

  • MrCorvus

    “why does God allow selfish, spiteful, hypocritical, unbelieving people to been apart from Him the way they want?”

    It is much easier to rationalize the fact that the majority of all humans are damned when you stereotype non-believers like this.

    Unbelievers are all selfish, spiteful hypocrites? What about the moral people who happen to follow a different religion? What about the kind and caring atheists? What about all the humans who lived before Jesus? What about humans who live in remote locations and have never had the opportunity to learn of this salvation?

  • MrCorvus

    IMO, it seems like many believers in ECT have no problem with this because they believe they are saved. Their reward is all the greater because the alternative is so horrific.

    “That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more
    abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in

    -Thomas Aquinas, 13th century

  • Brett

    Or all of this is moot since god doesn’t exist

  • Haven’t looked at the thread, but I’m wondering how many people will defend it based on some variation of “God has perfect knowledge and knows just how depraved we are,” as thought the most important thing to consider when saying, “I’m going to set my kid on fire,” is whether you’re SURE they were sassing you.

    ETA: None so far – well done, comment thread.

  • No, he wouldn’t, really. The Old Testament God might punish people, but there’s relatively little evidence to indicate that OT God had any ideas about eternal conscious torture. Or rather, there’s just as much evidence of either annihilation or purgatory.

  • VisionaryJax

    Blake Miller, Ben isn’t the only one who compares God’s relationship to us to that of Father and child, Jesus did, when He taught us to pray, “Our Father…” Your comparison of this relationship to that of an author and his fictional characters is disturbing because, of course, fictional characters aren’t real and don’t have feelings — this is why human authors can doom fictional characters and not be guilty of crimes. But to say that God regards us as not real, as having no feelings, is a horrifying representation of God. Surely this isn’t what you men.

    As for your idea that “Why did God allow Jesus to die?” is a better argument against a loving God than the doctrine of eternal hell … I think the Bible answers this one, and the same Scripture answers your point #1 above as well: “God commended His love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” This gives us the picture of how God loves: not by dooming sinners to eternal hell, but by choosing to die Himself rather than see His beloved sinners suffer. This is the “nature of love” that you say Ben is demonstrating his ignorance of … It will die itself rather than let you die.

    God loves you so very much, Blake Miller. Believe it. And His love will never let you go.

  • I this this is a pretty fantastic question that personalizes the problem with hell. Thank you. :)
    However, since I know you subscribe to annihilation, do you mind if I ask:
    Which one of your children are you willing to snuff out of existence?

  • Trilemma

    4. I would send ALL my children to Hell–if God told me to.

    Scary. Very scary.

  • Brett

    the ugly fat one he’ll never amount to anything

  • Oh, but ugly, fat people can change the world.

  • JavaFizz

    Fear is the ultimate form of control. For much of civilized humanity religious leaders have used fear of punishment in the afterlife to get people to enrich the leaders and let them live a life of luxury. From Popes to the Franklin Grahams of the world.

    They are the real sinners.

    And if god is punishing my kind and good hearted mother for all eternity right now than that god is a monster.

  • Brett

    exactly what I’m trying to do in all my hideous tuby’ness

  • Great question. My view on annihilation has become a view that sees it as a natural result, not a direct action. Death is a reality we are all under, and I believe being reconciled to God is the cure for death. To refuse to be reconciled is to refuse life- and there’s a natural outcome to that. It would be as if one of my children needed an oxygen tank to live, but kept refusing to keep the mask on. Natural death wouldn’t be a punitive action on my part but a result of their repeated refusal to embrace that which was needed to sustain life.

  • Interesting. Thank you for your response!
    But still, if God is all powerful, isn’t He just sitting back and letting us die? :( It doesn’t seem punitive, but still morally dubious. Unless there’s something like a million chances after death. But here I am rambling…

  • The problem is: God still must’ve created hell. So, even if you think, “Well, people choose to go there, God doesn’t send them there,” you still must believe that God created an eternal torture chamber. Which is a horrible thing to do.

  • Agreed. The commenters here are kind of awesome. :)

  • All of His creation are his children. At least he considered all of us worthy of his death on the cross. Who dies for someone they don’t love with all their heart?

  • JD

    For me annihilation is worsr than hell. I dont subscribe to either.

  • Don Lowery

    Something I didn’t hear mentioned was the aspect of revenge. For instance…you have people who believe that living their lives the way those who are out for whatever they are seeking…whether it’s money/power or whatever. If said person doesn’t have something to hold over the other’s head who’s not following their rules/life…what punishment can there be for mocking or rejecting said rules/life? The “I told you so” means no hell…no way I can feel better for “being good and following the rules”.
    For all of those in my past/present/future life who believe in hell…it’s like the old joke…I’ll be to busy partying with my friends to have time to burn or deal with the devil. Anyway…as long as I’m separated from those who give me the most grief in this life about following their rules…their version of hell will be a vacation. ;)

  • Herm

    … only for those who truly believe God doesn’t exist. You’re here so you’re either an apologist for nothingness or you have some doubt about religiously committing yourself to nothing. Either way you are more than welcome if in everything you do to others as you would have others do to you.

  • Herm

    I’m on the fence regarding electroconvulsive therapy but I do know that I would never enjoy empathetically watching my worst enemy, whom I still feel a kindred love for as also once a child of Man, punished by eternal anguish. How much abundance can I possibly want to enjoy than what eternity alone has to offer? Wouldn’t that add up to the potential for infinite abundance without wasting my time gloating over the stupidity and/or ignorance of the damned? … especially those damned enemies who I know who except by the grace of God go I.

  • Herm

    … roasting hot dogs and marsh mellows?

  • IMO it would only be morally dubious if he could over ride free will and force us to chose him, but then did not. However, that would pose a new set of moral questions on forcing someone.

  • I know, right? Frightening.

  • Don Lowery

    Actually…being dead…I would indulge in EVERYTHING my doctor said no too. For instance…no alcohol…sugary drinks/foods. I’m going to give Homer Simpson a run for his money from “The Devil and Homer Simpson”. I love donuts and not supposed to be eating them…so guess what I’m going to enjoy. ;)

  • Herm

    … and then mankind could not possibly be in the spiritual image of God. We would then be relegated to mere pets and marionettes for the folly of the gods. Love did not allow me to relegate my children to such though I easily could have mastered brake their spirit of sometimes obstinate free will. They had to take primary responsibility to choose to live or even with all my efforts for them to live they would have passed. So it is with our relationship in God image.

  • Jeanne Fox

    Fatuglylivesmatter. :-)

  • Herm

    … you’ve convinced me it would be ultimate hell to be able to instantly gratify all my desires. What ever would I have to look forward to for an eternity? I feel like playing the harp on a cloud would get old fast, and worse would be to be on my knees singing songs of praise to my Lord forever more. What other misconceptions can we imagine about an after this life in a place without a sun to keep track of time?

  • Jeanne Fox

    You would send your kids to Hell if God told you to?! That’s highly fanatical and scary.

  • True. Although, in fairness, it is one of the few parables where Jesus ranges into some weird territory. It’s like, “Once, there was a man planting a field. Once, there was a man who bought a vineyard. Once, there was a man who died and went to a dark fiery place where he could talk to all the other dead people hanging with Abraham.”

    Yeah, that one seems different. But even so, you sort of have to assume the cosmology to derive support for it from a parable. It would be like asserting giant mustard trees are real.

  • Cat lover

    Just like Andrea Yates.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    I feel a strange blend of Rob Bell and C.S. Lewis, myself (yeah, a weird mix, but I’m a weird lady): something might need to be done to those willing and able to let God cleanse them, that cleansing might feel something like Hell, but I can’t believe it’s eternal. Or that it’s done pointlessly — because really, what good can come out of eternal torment if it’s not teaching a lesson or stripping away sin? Something that could be taken and used to glorify, love, and be loved by Him . . . which is kinda the point of everything, isn’t it?

  • Mark Rich

    This whole question got a whole lot simpler for me once I paid serious attention to 1 Cor 15. Paul is a strong universalist, by which I mean that he believes in the resurrection of everyone (and he doesn’t indulge in any such foolishness as two resurrections) not because he is softheaded, but because he believes in the final victory of God over death itself. The concept of eternal hell is a way of writing death into eternity, into the structure of reality. But what so few notice is that they then reduce God into a big being inhabiting the universe, but not the transcendent Ground of all Being. Paul doesn’t make that mistake, and he’s right.

  • Ron McPherson

    “I do believe that Jesus wasn’t ‘all knowing’ and bought
    into the concept as well.”

    I actually don’t see that he did. Though he did utilize images of the Gehenna valley to speak of God’s judgment, I think he was pretty clear that eternal life is given to only those who believe upon him, with the alternative being death. In other words, I don’t believe he taught that everyone inherited eternal life – that those in him get a good one while all the rest get a bad one.

  • Trilemma

    That’s who I thought of too but I couldn’t remember the name.

  • Key

    You say “You’d have to show that those first century christians…” did or believed something. Why? Why would anyone in particular need to show anything at all about the early Church? Antiquity doesn’t necessarily correspond with correctness. While early Christians might not have had much of a problem with the concept of punitive hell, they also likely didn’t have much of a problem with the idea of all sickness being caused by evil spirits instead of micro organisms and viruses. They obviously didn’t have much of a problem with slavery, which most people today seem to find repugnant.

  • Ron McPherson

    “You’re saying that the relationship between God and man is akin to parent and child. It isn’t.”

    Hmm. Not sure where you get this. The NT repeatedly equates our relationship to God as parent and child.

    “I would send ALL my children to Hell–if God told me to.”

    Do you have children? Since you say you would be willing to send your children to hell if God instructed you to do it (which fortunately for your children he won’t, nor would you even have the power to do it), would you also be willing to send yourself there as well?

    “Kinda like how Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac.”

    I fail to see any legitimate analogy here. Abraham was convinced God would raise Isaac from the dead were he to sacrifice him. The issue was not whether Abraham would obey God enough to part with his son, but rather did he take God at his word when told he would be the father of nations through the line of Isaac.

  • Ron McPherson

    I submit that one who legitimately believes in eternal conscious torment cannot genuinely believe at the same time that God is all three of the following:

    (a) All knowing

    (b) All powerful

    (c) All loving

    Scenario 1: If God knows one is being tortured forever in hell (a), has the power to stop it (b) but doesn’t, then how can the assertion be made that the Lord is all loving (c)?

    Scenario 2: If God has the power to stop one’s torment (b), loves that individual enough to stop it (c) but doesn’t, then how can the assertion be made that the Lord knows about it (a) given that the torture never ends?

    Scenario 3: If God is aware of an individual being tortured in hell (a), loves that individual enough to end the agony (c) but doesn’t act upon it, then how can the
    assertion be made that the Lord has the power to stop it (b) when it continues
    without end?

    I’ve also heard the statement that God doesn’t send anyone to hell – those that go there choose it, as if people choose to be burned alive forever. I could never make sense of such a statement if God is all knowing, all powerful, and all loving (all three), which I believe him to be. But more than anything else, I simply take Jesus at His word when He says that eternal life is given to only those who believe upon Him. He doesn’t say that EVERYONE inherits eternal life – one being good life and one being bad. To me, John 3:16 is pretty plain – eternal life or death, not an eternal good life or an eternal bad life.

  • Ron McPherson

    Ironically, I believe Andrea Yates told a psychiatrist that she killed her children trying to save them FROM hell. A heinous act to be sure, but even in her warped mind she was unwilling that her children go there.

  • Wesley Dickens

    Good, now let’s stop expecting justice on planet earth, too. stop criticizing and expecting punishment for Jared Fogle, ISIS, IDF soldiers, Hamas, Boko Haram, lion hunting dentists, Hindu social politics, and Kentucky county clerks.

  • You really can’t see any ground for justice between total lack of punishment and eternal, conscious torment? Eternal? Conscious? Torment? No, I would not wish that even for the worst ISIS mastermind.

  • Wesley Dickens

    your dislike and the way you express it for what ISIS is doing is just as evil as what they do. If justice isn’t going to be served for your evil then it shouldn’t be served to them or the adulterers and perverts on your block.

  • “I would send ALL my children to Hell–if God told me to.” Maybe this was a case of speaking before thinking things through, but I think it also highlights a divide in moral-theological thinking which is very difficult to bridge. Some will indeed act as Abraham did with Isaac. As for me, if God told me to send my children to hell, I would know that I had spent my life worshiping the wrong god.

  • CanIbeFrank

    We say she’s warped, but is she? Didn’t she just take what is being taught in your average American church to the logical extreme: we’re all destined for hell unless we “ask Jesus into our hearts” but babies who die, before they have a chance to understanding, go automatically to heaven. While we can quibble over when that “age of reason” is, what she did is actually completely in line with what is being taught in Sunday school and churches everywhere. I mean, if I TRULY believed that the only way to GUARANTEE that my children weren’t going to end up in eternal conscious fiery torment was to make sure they died before the age of reason, I would do the same thing. Any sane, loving parent would. (Thankfully, I don’t believe that. I’m just shocked that there aren’t more parents killing their children, to be perfectly honest.)

  • Key

    Please define the term”justice” in both worldly and divine senses. Be as specific and as elaborate as possible.

  • Wesley Dickens

    Why do you desire me to define justice?

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    i’ve been imagining eternity w all my cats & dogs friends, spouce, family in a state of wellbeing creating & experiencing all the things i longed to do, had a felt sense i had the capacity to do here but never got the opportunity:
    like playing the piano and composing, ballet and all kinds of dancing, painting murals, growing flowers & veg, flying! In short, everything I was drawn to that was creative, wholesome, that here I feel is so fleeting &, mostly dark, in eternity I will see what I was starting to be introduced to in the light. I will aprehend that certainty and cofidence that all is well, everything will evolve, expand, gain momentum on a grand
    scale I never could grap mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually as an incarnated human being. The wait will over at last! The groaning of crushing dissapointment & frustration I will not even remember! Already I live by this:
    A day, when it is past, is like a thousand years.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    yep! i’ve been thinking abt antichrist. would’t it be a shadow of all the good things god and jesus are just twisted into a form of newspeak? If jesus had taken up the offer satan wanted: giving jesus the world in exchange for jesus bowing down to worship him, satan, could what has become americanized version of xianity be mor hidiously evil than it is now becomming?

  • Tracy

    Can you please clarify – your title says “for those idiots who still believe in hell. ” Pretty much. And then in the article, you go on to say that its the traditional view of Hell that is in question. Big difference. I don’t believe in the traditional form of hell… but I do believe in Hell. We see hell every day on this planet. And we see heaven every day here too. We see the two in conflict with each other. Why should it be any different once we die? To say hell is not a biblical teaching is untrue. Our interpretation is the issue, not hell itself. So in your next article, can you just clarify if you are trying to do away with the concept all together, or trying to expand people’s thinking around the concept of hell.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    you know it wasn’t our choice to be created and to endure the perils of earthly existance that ends in death. what free will there seems to be is extremly limited IMO. there sure must be a whole lot more for me to understand abt it but for now I shall count my blessings & try to let go of my resentments.

  • Tracy

    um… then why did Paul preach new creation so urgently? To say he is a strong universalist is a strong statement. Calvinism and Universalism have the same thread. NO choice. I wish it were true and all are saved, but there are those who hate God, and even if he appeared to them face to face, they would still choose hell over heaven. Heaven is only going to be heaven for those who choose God freely.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Oh, dear, it was our choice, just not our entirely conscious choice. Recover awareness and you recover choice.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Hell is your personal creation and will never be eternal because of the way this place is set up. But it can be unpleasant. Don’t do that.

  • LadySunami

    Back when I was still a believer I always figured there was only one afterlife, but said afterlife could be either hell or heaven depending on one’s attitude. If a person’s self worth is wrapped up in having more material possessions then others, then a place where no one has anything or where everyone has whatever they want would be hell. The same for people only concerned about holding power over others, who suddenly find themselves without such power, or those who consider themselves the elect only to find themselves in a heaven that includes all people. Now I’m an agnostic atheist and I think there probably isn’t an afterlife, but if there does happen to be one a single afterlife still seems more sensible.

  • jdkl

    I give the greatest weight to the words of Christ himself,and like some of the other posters, wonder why the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man doesn’t argue for hell. I do at the same time find it hard to believe that our Lord would allow someone to burn in hell for all eternity for instance for not having the faith to believe in Jesus. On the other hand, there is, as you’ve pointed out in previous blogs, much urgent encouragement from Jesus to know him and his ways, and repent from sin. Annihilationism or a temporary hell or purgatory are nothing to be taken lightly. Lastly, I believe that we can know for sure if we believe the scriptures that Jesus promises eternal life to those who freely and without reservation come to him, submit to him and obey him, and that he promises negative consequences to those who knowingly, willfully, and finally reject him. If you don’t fit into either of those categories (although some argue we all do eventually) I’m much less comfortable saying what will be your eternal fate.

  • Brett

    If there is nothing, you can neither commit to nor apologise for it, and treating everyone as you would like to be treated yourself is an excellent creed only marred only by people’s inherent need for oneupmanship and inability to see beyond race and religion

  • Key

    You obviously have some very strong opinions on what justice entails. Im pretty sure I disagree with you on at least one major point, but rather than argue against what I infer that point to be, it seems far more polite to request clarification. I could always be misinterpreting something you said, after all. Besides, with such obviously powerful an opinion you should have no trouble explaining that opinion, right? And it should hold up against honest disagreement too, shouldn’t it?

  • nicolelynn

    Please give an example of a single person–any single one–who would actually choose eternal conscious torture with full knowledge that they are in fact choosing eternal. conscious. torture. Please name one single person.

  • nicolelynn

    So then he’s not all powerful. He’s constrained by free will. Or chooses not to override free will, in which case he’s not all loving. Because even though yes, free will is a good thing, loving parents do sometimes override a child’s will.

  • Tim

    The problem is there is a false dichotomy in your statement. How do you imagine Paul’s many statements about God’s plan will be fulfilled? How do you imagine that God will, for example, be all in all at some point? I disagree that some people are capable of rejecting God forever, and we even have some strong statments in scripture that strongly hint at this, at the very least. There is always a choice. Even Revelation says that the gates of the city are never shut. but Revelation isn’t even the end of the story, although it contains references to it. The beauty and majesty of God is that he ‘destroys’ his enemies by turning them into his friends, and he allows those of us who ‘got the memo’ earlier the privilege of being part of that.

  • Greystone

    Thank you so much. That’s a great idea about the book. I’ve heard of it before. I will pick it up so she can read it.

  • Does the parable of the mustard seed argue for the existence of giant mustard trees that all the birds of the air can live in? Or is it just a story?

  • This is where the “conditionalists” are helpful, imo. The idea that the soul is not intrinsically immortal and, when you die, you’re dead.

    It then becomes God’s prerogative to raise people from the dead. Could He do that for everyone? Sure. I’m not a universalist, but universalism is certainly not precluded by annihilationism.

    I think the conditional resurrection is easier to read from Scripture than God actively destroying immortal souls, which sounds more Fudge-ish.

  • You have to appreciate the little blessings.

  • This is a great Gospel message. “Come worship the true God of Israel! You’re basically like fictional characters as far as He’s concerned!”

  • Corey M. Benjamin

    But… doesn’t everyone who believes in hell believe that it’s human beings who AREN’T God’s children who go to hell?

    Like, the point of grace and love is exactly what you say it is: God wouldn’t eternally torment God’s children.

    But everyone who believes in hell agrees with you. They just don’t think that everyone is God’s child.

    I ask in all sincerity that you ponder this.

  • Mark Rich

    Tracy, it is kind of funny to hear you say “NO choice” and “Heaven is only going to be heaven for those who choose God freely” in the same paragraph. You’re evidently an Arminian, even though it seems that you think you’re a Calvinist. Calvin was quite clear that the choice is ultimately God’s and not ours, and that the grace of God is irresistible. By saying that Paul is a strong universalist (unlike today’s Unitarian Universalists), I am pointing out that the ultimate concern for him is not at all what people choose, whether they choose well or poorly. Rather, for him the ultimate concern is God’s victory over the powers that are arrayed against God and finally over death itself. For God’s victory to be complete, then death has to be destroyed completely, and that includes any hell or any annihilation. To continue to believe in an eternal hell is to insist that God must NOT conquer death. That then implies that God and death are equals and that God does not transcend death nor the creation. It is also to believe in death and hell, which is just the belief that Benjamin is rightly trying to get us to notice. To believe in death and hell, one then has no use whatever for Jesus’ resurrection. Once again, serious attention to 1 Cor 15 is very, very useful here.

  • Wesley Dickens

    No, your presuppositions are wrong. Especially those about my motivations. Since it appears your desire is to try to knock my position down rather than know truth or the very least mutual edification, I think it would be inappropriate to continue a discussion which will only result in satisfying personal vanity.

  • Sheila Warner

    This made my brother upset. He thinks someone like Mao gets his justice in hell. Yet, my brother also believes he deserves hell, apart from Jesus. This is dual thinking. “All sins are equal” in spite of Jesus saying the opposite. This way of thinking about sin & hell leads to fear. God is not one who offered us a state of being frightened, but a life of peace & true justice.

  • Sheila Warner

    You nailed it.

  • Mr. Annoying

    Your analogy about your daughter saying she hated you may not be the most appropriate one. Consider this analogy, your daughter is 18. She says she hates you, she wants nothing to do with you, she is leaving and she never wants to see you again. Of course it hurts, but she is an adult. By the laws that have been set up you cannot force her to stay in your life.

    So she leaves, and winds up on the streets. As miserable as her existence is, she tells herself “At least I am free of that guy who claims he is my father.” It hurts you to see her there. You wish she would come back to you. If she would you would open up your home to her without hesitation. But, instead, she clings to her miserable and dangerous life with the sole consolation “At least I am free of him.”

    Can’t happen you say? I have seen it happen. People develop strange and warped ideas, and sometimes no amount of reason or good intentions will sway them.

    I believe that Heaven is open to anyone who truly wants it. If, however, a person does not truly want Heaven, there has to be an alternative. Perhaps that means annihilation, or perhaps something else. the point is that without that alternative nothing matters, not our beliefs, not our actions, nothing.

  • gimpi1

    I know you’ve discussed the odd “rapture” doctrine that came in with Darby, Ben. You’ve gone over how much power it has over people, and how little Scriptural support there is for it, and yet every time you go over its recent development and dubious concepts, people shows up to defend it – mostly along the “this is what I was taught” lines.

    This may be the same thing. I sometimes see religious belief as a window into the subconscious mind. People often seem to believe what feels right to them, what fits with their upbringing or basic mindset, and they don’t actually examine much of anything. They just look for support of what they have already decided (perhaps subconsciously) to believe.

    Though, that raises another question… why would someone want to believe that most of the people they know – people they work with, stood in line at the grocery store behind, who teach their kids and pave their roads and take care of their parents in the assisted living facility – are going to suffer horrific torture forever? Why is that idea so appealing? On that, you’ve got me. I have no idea.

  • Trilemma

    According to Blue Letter Bible, the mustard plant in the parable can grow to be over ten feet tall which is bigger than other garden plants and certainly big enough for birds to nest in.


  • Sheila Warner

    But you would not set her on fire when you saw her out there. Also, nothing in this post suggested there are no consequences. Benjamin merely rules out Hell.

  • Dan Miller

    Where in the bible does it say we are all sons and daughters or God? Jesus told some people their father was Satan.

    Secondly, is it possible that in our fallen nature, our own sense of justice has been corrupted? We have to realize that even our best attempts at justice are clouded. Why can’t we admit that, and instead of guessing on what God would and wouldn’t do, we allow him to speak to the fate of humanity? The church has, for 2,000 years, had a pretty consistent view of hell due to the teachings of Jesus and New Testament authors. Maybe one of the reasons we need God to judge is because our own judgment is flawed.

    We seem to be making God in our own image, one where rebellion against Him and His Kingdom is a minor offense.

  • Sheila Warner

    Even in our fallen state we enact laws and strive to make punishment fit the offense. Should we start setting people on fire, now?

  • Dan Miller

    And what would a Just God do? Can we allow him to administer justice that we don’t agree with?

    The problem with your view is that it assumes your own sense of justice is the correct one. If God differs from you on what is just (eternal hell), you give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Essentially, a God with a sense of justice different than your own cannot possibly exist. Do you see the arrogance in that?

  • Dan Miller

    Of course not. Our judgments are temporary and often flawed, which is why we should avoid making permanent judgments such as death. God is the only one who has eternal judgements. I’m just saying, God is completely just. Our sense of justice is flawed. When the two conflict, why do we always assume that our sense of justice is correct, and if God differs from us, that God must not exist. If God is truly far above us, shouldn’t we expect some of his judgments to be different than our own, and make us uncomfortable?

  • Sheila Warner

    We are made in God’s image. Even as fallen humanity, we are capable of both justice & mercy. Jesus himself points out that there are different levels of judgment. I don’t see my view as arrogant. I’ve also researched the doctrine of hell. Do some reading, and see if you can allow yourself to be challenged. I definitely changed my view. Start with Pastor Rob Bell. “Love Wins” is one of his books which goes into detail about the eternal fate of everyone. If, of course, you enjoy intellectual challenges.

  • Mr. Annoying

    I don’t pretend to know if Hell is a literal place of eternal flames, or if that is merely a visual picture to bring to mind the worst place that Jesus’ original audience could think of. I do not even pretend to know if Hell is an actual place or a metaphor for the cessation of existence. When i speak of Hell, I am speaking of an alternative one can choose if one rejects God.

    To take my analogy one step further, you could kidnap your daughter, imprison her in your home and indoctrinate her into accepting that you are a loving parent who only wants to care for her. That would violate the law, of course, but one could tell oneself that it is right to do so out of love. But is it right? Is it right to take away one’s choice in this matter? I can’t immediately say that it is.

  • Here is a photo of a man standing next to a ten foot tall mustard plant.


  • Dan Miller

    Why do you assume I haven’t read up on the topic? I have a seminary degree and have read a decent amount on the topic.

    Love Wins is not an academic treatment of hell. I have read it, and it has some major issues. For one, Rob tries to argue that his view is part of the ‘wide stream of historic Christianity’ – which is simply not true. It has never been widely accepted throughout the church. Secondly, Rob ignores some major passages on hell (2 Thessalonians 1, for example), and makes the erroneous argument that Jesus was talking about a ‘garbage dump’ outside of Jerusalem when he referenced hell.

  • Ron McPherson

    “And what would a Just God do? Can we allow him to administer justice that we don’t agree with?”

    Well for one thing, we don’t really ‘allow him’ to do anything. He is the almighty creator who is perfect and just. Of course, whatever justice he administers is sure to be the right one. But I fail to see how this point is relevant to my post, unless you’re suggesting that God’s justice is somehow incompatible with love, knowledge, or power.

    “The problem with your view is that it assumes your own sense of justice is the correct one. If God differs from you on what is just (eternal hell), you give yourself the benefit of the doubt.”

    Hmm. I stated that I take Jesus at his word in John 3:16, so I’m not quite sure what you think my “sense of justice” is and how it may differ from God’s. Didn’t Jesus say eternal life is given to only those who believe upon him and death awaits all others? Paul said the same thing (Romans 6:23). There’s a lot more.

    “Essentially, a God with a sense of justice different than your own cannot possibly exist. Do you see the arrogance in that?”

    Well, yes, if I said that or believed it, it sure would be arrogant. But I didn’t and I don’t. Gee, I think you just accused me of being arrogant for something I never believed or said. Oh well, peace.

  • Trilemma

    Well, at least it’s tall. I had a feeling it wasn’t going to live up to expectations.

  • jtorito

    You say “Yet, even using scripture as the foundation for a hell-free
    eschatological and theological viewpoint, many Christians are completely
    unwilling to reconsider their views on hell in light of what the Bible
    teaches.” Can you provide the scriptures you use for your argument? All I’m seeing is arguments based on the logic that “That’s not the way I imagine myself doing it so therefore the real God must not do it that way either. Not necessarily an invalid line of reasoning but if you DO ultimately use “scripture as the foundation for a hell-free eschatological and theological viewpoint” why do you not list any scripture to make your argument?

  • Herm

    Thank you Louis!

    The first attraction of an eternal life of love for me is that, no matter what else, the kingdom is promised to be free from the self indulgent influence of intimidation, manipulation and subjugation. The second attraction is, that should I require a perfectly healthy physical body to grow from into the full time spiritual life of God, my Father is most capable of providing such body and a new earth to support it.

    I expect a full range of emotions but all moderated to be healthy and supporting of all life, carnal and spiritual. Disappointment and frustration can be healthy when used to realize better alternatives to utilize in the future in similar situations. Both can be of important to our array of emotions as grief can be when used to most fully value lives lost to our active sharing of relationship. No emotion supports life when exaggerated to “crushing”, including an opposite of disappointment, frustration and grief we feel as joy.

    Our perspective today is limited by time we can only gauge by the revolutions around our sun. Our Father and Brother has a perspective of all suns, none relative to revolutions around either the suns or God. Our Father and Brother know each and every particle inside and out of the cosmos we see from our tiny little speck of nothingness we’re proud to call our Earth.

    Jesus, completely one with God in the Spirit, spoke to us in terms we each could understand to desire a life eternal. It was He who used family relationships as an example to understand our relationship with God in Their image. It is He who speaks to each of our hearts and minds as we are able that we understand divine Family love as reciprocal and the glue that bonds us together for the good of all throughout all of time. It was and is He who knows our limitations of immaturity from first hand experience who speaks for the Father to guarantee all that is good (non-destructive) that we ask for will be granted exactly when we can most appreciate it. Eternal life allows for all the patience time can without limits make possible. Humanity is just now realizing that the creator God of the “Big Bang” has minimally the patience of eons to begin to spawn others in Their image when the most perfect incubator was ready to sustain life. Even as little children of that God we can be sure to grow into an equal patience to enjoy and learn from the moment as it is rather than be disappointed or frustrated because the moment isn’t exactly as we thought we wanted it to be.

    I want so to build my own sailboat from the barest elements of the earth and spend centuries puttering around the seas ever learning better to ride the winds I cannot control.

    Thank you for the beautiful picture of what you want to ask for that will be given.

    Love you!

  • Key

    So your argument isn’t that horrifically painful death is wrong, just that we might misapply it?
    Also, if God’s sense of justice is so far removed from human concepts of justice, why even use the same word?

  • Dan Miller

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

    When the ark of the covenant was being transported back to Israel, it started to fall off a cart. Someone reached out to prevent it from falling when the oxen stumbled, even though they weren’t supposed to touch it. God struck him dead on the spot.

    Just? Most of us would say no. But for God, it was. I don’t think we realize that God does not judge the way we judge. His mercy and love are much greater than ours, yet His anger and wrath against sin are also much greater. Read Revelation – this is not a God who sends people to timeout for rejecting him. His judgment is fierce.

    We need to trust in Gods character as he has revealed himself in scripture – not as we think he should be.

  • Key

    Which presupposition did I even state, where they could be called wrong? The presupposition that I’ll disagree with you? Where did I question your motivation? I merely requested more information, in preparation for discussion which would hopefully involve “truth or at least mutual edification.” However, it appears that you are merely trolling, and I bit.

    Sorry, everyone else, for feeding a troll.

  • Jeanne Fox

    Some say that people go to hell because they choose it, but what about people who don’t believe in heaven and hell? Many people believe in reincarnation instead.

  • Lol! But even if the mustard thing doesn’t suit as an example, there’s also angels grabbing farming implements and reaping people to store in barns.

  • SamHamilton

    God created this world in all it’s horribleness too, right? Why’s it such a stretch to believe that some place exists elsewhere that is set apart from Heaven to which some souls go?

  • Sheila Warner

    Ah, you seem to adhere to a literal & inerrant view of the Bible. ‘Nuf said. I was raised that way. The fallback is always the same:”God’s ways are not our ways.” It’s the standard reply to impossible questions. TTYL….Adieu….Adios. …

  • That’s because this is one post in a long series. At the bottom of this piece there’s a link that says “you can find the rest of the series, here”. Just click on that and you’ll find all the articles. Each piece has a different element, so I’d encourage you to go through each one- especially “letting go of hell without letting go of the bible.” Thanks.

  • SamHamilton

    Why are you and others so stuck on the literal fire? You take it just as literally as some other Christians do who believe there is a Hell with fire, torture devices and a red man with horns. Hell could exist without literal fire. Mr. Annoying’s example doesn’t depend on literal fire.

  • Dan Miller

    Nobody adheres to literal readings of the bible, because it uses all the same linguistic devices that we use.

    I guess the alternative to “God’s ways are not our own” is what, “if we disagree with something, it must not be of God”? The frustration with this treatment of hell is that it ignores the bible entirely. Ignores Jesus’ teachings, ignores the prophets, ignores the epistles, ignores Revelation, and 2,000 years of church teaching. The argument is “love wouldn’t punish people eternally!” all the while creating individual definitions of love and what love would and wouldn’t do. We get the idea that God is love from he bible, but don’t want to hear that Jesus said he would return to judge the earth, separate goats and sheep, and send some to the “fiery lake of burning sulfur, which is the second death.” We continue to make God in our own image, a God who makes us feel good about the way we live while offering no lasting judgment on the way we live and treat others.

  • Jeanne Fox

    Some people try to soften the torment of hell by saying that a kind, unbelieving little old lady isn’t suffering in hell as hard as Adolf Hitler.

  • SamHamilton

    Great suggestion Tracy. When reading this blog post I’m not sure whether Mr. Corey is trying to ditch the traditional visual image of Hell as a place of literal fire and torture devices and a little red man with horns, or trying to ditch the concept of Hell entirely as voluntary separation from God in the afterlife. His experiment in logic leads me to believe it’s the latter, but then he and so many commenters here keep bringing up literal fire and eternal torture as if the concept of Hell and literal fire/torture have to go hand in hand.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    yeah I know! I’m not surprised! IMO nobody knows nuttin honey! (=

  • SamHamilton

    Who says this? I’ve never heard anyone say that.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    sure you can read god’s so called word &, more importantly in my opinion, you can have a loving relationship with him right now. Jesus had such with his Heavenly Father
    while he was here and explained to us what it was like by his loving acts not necessarily only words. one can have a friendship with Jesus right now through the Holy Spirit that speaks to one’s condition in life. IMO God’s revelation is still unfolding in us and for us. we are his unfolding & His presence & we are his living word if we hear him and are empowered to do his works in the world right now. its not locked up in a book! he is still speaking to us just as much as he did 2,000 years ago or six thousand years ago. in fact you can’t shut him up! the rocks will cry out!
    I love it when Jesus says you’ve heard it said now I say. one can choose to get one’s nose out of a book that one is tempted to control and manipulate by one’s own and other human’s interpretation & get out there on the street and love people for the love of Christ! one can be his hands and feet in the world he created to be walked around in & enjoyed. I shall try to take my own advice today.

  • Sheila Warner

    You proved my point. It’s that interpretation thing. It lacks common sense. And, you are obviously unaware of how the doctrine of hell developed over 2000 years. You have your mind made up for you by those who preach to you. I am certain that you live by the inevitable “we can’t grasp God’s mind/justice/holiness/plans…et al”. You cling to the current interpretations you are carefully taught. I would venture that you would only seek an echo chamber of like-minded people instead of honestly investigating why some Christians reject hell. As Benjamin stated, there are links at the bottom of his page for more insight. Also check out “Jesus Without Baggage” on WordPress. When you have earnestly gone outside of your comfort zone to seek out other sources, maybe we can chat. Otherwise you are too similar to family members who are narrow & rigid. I find interactions with them non-productive.

  • Sheila Warner

    I’m not stuck on literal fire. My concept of hell is being stuck for as long as it takes to repent. I don’t know if that state can last forever or if a person simply ceases to exist. The critics of this post are reading into it what is not said. Benjamin never said there are no consequences for sin. He merely rejects an eternal fire of torment. Sheesh!

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    I hope it helps! :) I feel like a lot of modern evangelicals drop the intellectual from faith; it’s all very “I don’t need no man in an ivory tower to tell me what’s in the Bible.” Which . . . I mean, is true, but there’s a lot of good to be found in turning to people who’ve thought, studied, and wrestled with hard questions. Why not let them do the work so you don’t have to? :P

    This probably seems like a totally random digression, but basically I’m saying that when I was in college, all of my evangelical friends were telling me to pray harder, read the Bible more, go on dates with Jesus (yes, really), listen to C-Pop, and a whole bunch of other stuff rooted in things like feelings, which is often called “the spirit.” I’m not trying to disparage the Spirit at all, because it’s an important part of faith, but as a nerd, I found all those dusty old theology texts with appendices of Greek and Hebrew crap in the background WAYYYY more helpful in strengthening and defining my faith than Christian music or silent prayer, or even the Bible (which IS NOT CLEAR. Don’t let anyone tell you it is). I don’t know what kind of person your wife is, but I think there’s this attitude that prayer should solve everything and if it doesn’t you’re bad or not trying hard enough, so if she’s struggling with the idea of hell or any other big Religion concepts, it might do a world of good to point her at a nice, fat stack of books . . . if for no other reason than to show her that she’s not the only one bothered by them. Hell, a lot of people were bothered by them enough to write books!

    (Of course, you gotta be careful with books, because they’re not gospel. They should be taken with a grain of salt, but in my personal experience, as someone who does not have much in the way of faith-feelings, it’s a good place to start dealing with thorny issues.)

    This is really rambling and nonsensical and like 500 words too long, sorry. But I hope you get what I’m trying to say. Love, prayers, and hugs to both you and your wife. <3

  • Sheila Warner

    Your seminary was Evangelical, right? Rob Bell went to seminary, too, I believe. Even my Fundamentalist, seminary degreed, pastor taught that Jesus was referring to the garbage dump. He fervently preached an everlasting hell with real fire for eternity. In referring to Gehenna, my pastor focused on the flames that never die out as an object lesson. Just as the fires never die, so too, he’ll keeps burning. He taught that the story of the rich man & Lazare really happened, that it wasn’t a parable. Trust me, I was spoon fed everything you say.

  • Sheila Warner

    Glad to hear you’re not on board necessarily with the flames stuff. It appears you have some disagreement with this post, though. Not sure what it is. Benjamin focused on on hell. He never ruled out some kind of consequences.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    I think one is encountering people here who have been severely abused and brainwashed. These one’s are easy to recognize bc of their desperate and manic fearing to have any other answers but the one’s approved by family, friends,
    spiritual and religious authorities they grew up with. I think what one is encountering in these ppl is the fear of death of one’s cherished illusions and hopes. it’s a good sign however, in my opinion, that people come here who are so motivated by their fear based belief systems get exposure to faith based people who truly seek compassionate
    understanding & try to apply what they’re hearing fresh, every day, instruction bc of maintaining connection with the Holy Spirit who teaches one & empowers one
    about how to truly love people not just the book or things, status, tribes, empires or the interpretation of the book by celebrities.
    I know in some ways it’s very frustrating to try to engage with people who have this mindset. but if you understand the why they have become like the Manchurian Candidate
    I believe the Holy Spirit can use that understanding to penetrate that miasma and give one the wisdom, discernment, inspiration & compassion to open up new ways how to reach the hearts of people who have been previously closed by fear.

  • SamHamilton

    Then why do ask the other commenter whether he’d set his daughter on fire as if fire has to be a part of any concept of Hell? Why can’t “Hell” be the word for the consequences of unrepentance or rejection of God?

    If literal fire and torture are all Mr. Corey, you, and other commenters are rejecting, you all don’t need to deny Hell. You just need to deny these specific things are a literal part of Hell. Hell can simply be a place where God is not present, separation from God, etc, which is exactly what Mr. Annoying is describing.

    I think part of the misunderstanding could be is that people assume Mr. Corey is not just refuting the idea of a Hell with literal fiery torture, but refuting the idea that nothing negative happens to people who reject God because who would ever choose to have anything bad happen to one’s son or daughter, much less fiery torment? I also think people who take issue with this blog post have a hard time believing that Mr. Corey would devote blog post and blog post after blog post to merely refuting the idea of a Hell with literal fire. I mean, is it that important to refute the fire part? At the end of the day, Hell stinks, whether there’s literal fiery torture or it’s merely a dank, dark place of nothingness where souls are separated from God.

    If all Mr. Corey is refuting is the eternal fire part, he should just entitled his post “A Sincere Question for My Friends Who Believe in A Hell with Literal Fiery Torture.” He could have written: “I don’t believe there is literal fiery torture in Hell, but there are negative consequences for rejecting God in the afterlife – whether that’s a physical location separate from God or annihilation of the soul.” I doubt he’d get anyone taking issue with what he wrote. Of course, he probably wouldn’t get a lot of clicks either because it’s so mundane and actually a very commonly held view among Christians. C.S. Lewis said something similar decades ago.

  • Dan Miller

    Then both Rob and your fundamentalist pastor were wrong. The garbage dump fire story was an 13th century rabbinical construct that pastors (and Rob) have taught. It’s simply not true. Jesus was referring to Jeremiah 7, and the belief that the Valley of Hinnom was where pagan sacrifices were made, and was thought of as a place of God’s wrath.

    You keep making a lot of assumptions about me (that I haven’t read up on hell, that haven’t read Rob Bell’s book, that I’m a fundamentalist, that I was spoon fed whatever it is your background is. It’s not fair to me to have a conversation and lump me in with whatever stereotypes or baggage you have from your upbringing. If you want to engage in conversation, please address the actual arguments and stop referencing your background and somehow applying to me. I’m sorry if you grew up in a hateful fundamentalist church, but that’s not me.

  • SamHamilton

    Why are you so condescending to Dan? Why do you assume he hasn’t thought about this for himself as opposed to assuming he’s just regurgitating what he’s been taught? Why do you assume he’s “clinging” to something or wants an “echo-chamber?” Just because he’s come to a different conclusion than you have doesn’t imply any of the things you’re alleging.

  • Trilemma

    Looks like Blue Letter Bible picked the wrong mustard. Some other sites speculate it was a black mustard plant (brassica nigra). Here’s a picture of people with black mustard plants.


    At least small birds can nest in it.

  • Sheila Warner

    I actually see him as the one being condescending; touting his degree as if that makes him Authoritative. All of his phrasing & “Christianspeak” are identical to my years of growing up Fundie. I wonder if he adheres to Dispensation thoelogy. He made a patently false statement & I challenged him. If my frustration showed, it’s b/c I have circular conversations with those I love–for years, now. Sorry. But I still think he is regugitating. No real good response other than “It’s in the Bible & if it’s hard to swallow, we can’t grasp the mind of God.” Fundies have to do better than that.

  • Sheila Warner

    Fair enough. First of all, my church experience was not hateful. I loved my church. When I was 29 years old, I obtained a “read through the Bible” guide, but this particular guide was for reading through it in the order in which events occurred. So, part of Genesis, followed by Job, then back to Genesis to pick up the story of Noah & the rest, then the story of Israel. The prophets who ministered to Israel at certain times in its history were interspersed with those readings. I did it all in one summer. I had my trusty KJV, and devoured it. I was shocked that reading certain passages in context rendered the “cut & paste” type of teaching untenable.. That summer changed me. I tossed away all of the Dispensational theology, especially the eschatology portion, out the window I’m now 60, and I examine doctrines from all sides. I’m puzzled why you don’t tell me the name of your seminary. If I have misjudged your theology, then, please, dissuade me of my ignorance. The phrasing you use, the “christianspeak” I detect, bring me back to that summer. I am not satisfied with the generic “it’s in the Bible & if it’s hard to swallow, well we can’t know the mind of God.” Yet, we are told in the Epistles that we have the mind of Christ, who is, of course, the very Word,, the Logos, of God himself. Perhaps now you understand why frustration is pouring through my posts. I have circular conversations all the time with my family members.

  • Sheila Warner

    It’s not at all as common among Christianity as you might think. EVERYONE in my life growing up was focused on the flames! the flames! the eternal torment! It was quite effective in scaring people into “accepting Jesus as personal Lord & Savior, and inviting him into his/her heart.” That’s who Benjamin is addressing. You would be amazed at how many fundamentalists focus on hell. My own brother commented on this post when I shared it on fb, and he was livid at the idea that there is no lake of fire. Believe me, there are die-hard Christians who see flames as soon as they hear the word Hell. They take the Bible literally, believe it is the actual, inspired, word for word, WORD OF GOD. It’s literal, man, and it can’t have mistakes, b/c if one passage isn’t literal, then how do we know the entire Bible isn’t suspect? They have no knowledge of the various genres within the pages of the Bible. They discount the times in which it was written–the WORD OF GOD is for all people, in all times, and in all places. Period. Try to hold a conversation with folks like that. These folks are my late father, my mom, most of my siblings, and a fair amount of my childhood friends, now adults. They still believe all of this. My oldest sister believes this, and is charismatic to boot. Her theology absolutely affected the type of care my dad received in his last few years on this earth. I really know these believers.

  • Cat lover

    Yes. And for those who say that people choose hell, what about this scenario? A person is born in India to a Hindu family. Their friends and neighbors are Hindu. That sincerely believe in their religion and practice it scrupulously. How can anyone say that person is choosing hell and rejecting god’s love??

  • Sheila Warner

    “The frustration with this treatment of hell is that it ignores the bible entirely. Ignores Jesus’ teachings, ignores the prophets, ignores the epistles, ignores Revelation, and 2,000 years of church teaching.” No, the frustration is that some people’s understandings of all of these has been carefully handed down by some Protestant sects. You say nobody adheres to literal readings of the Bible, but then you point to the Bible regarding judgment. I’m not certain that you believe in a literal flames afire Hell, but every single person I attended church with did. They still do. They believe the Bible is the inspired & infallible WORD OF GOD, whose teachings (as they see them) are for all people at all times in every place. After all, the TRUTH cannot change depending on the whims of man. With all of the different interpretations of the Bible, and all of the varying scholastic inquiry of what the texts mean, who knows for certain? It’s the certainty of Hell that bugs me. Again, I lived and breathed this my entire life. Please believe me, you have NO idea how many folks view the Bible as synonymous with God himself. A true Christian’s Bible has to be dog-eared, rough around the edges, and filled with notes in the margins. That was the mark of a spiritual Christian all through my childhood. Still is within my family and among now-adults that attended Sunday School and church with me all throughout childhood and high school. Some even went to colleges that teach it. That view is very alive and doing quite well. You gotta have Hell–how else are you going to sell Jesus to people?

  • Jeanne Fox

    The Evidence Bible by Ray Comfort. Someone in Bible study class also made a similar statement. The pastor countered by saying that the mildest level of hell is still a billion times worse than anything you can experience here. :-(

  • I’ve actually seen it a lot: http://www.gotquestions.org/levels-hell.html

  • Alana

    When your choices are “love God” or “cease to exist”, it doesn’t seem like you have a real choice, do you? It’s more like being held hostage than anything else.

  • Alana

    That’s the most frightening thing I’ve read in ages, and I don’t even particularly like children.

  • Mr. Annoying

    The overall tone of the article is that God is too nice for anything like Hell to exist. That is the part I object to. It promotes the idea that God would kidnap a child, lock said child in Heaven and indoctrinate the Hell out of them (literally) until they loved Him. Please pardon me if I find that rather creepy.

    And, no, the author does not rule out consequences. Indeed, he doesn’t seem to mention them at all. Does that mean our choices, beliefs and behavior do not have consequences? That’s hardly a Biblical belief.

  • JD

    Indeed. Which for me pretty well cancels out free will and reduces humanity to nothing more than cattle.

  • Alana

    As a fellow writer, I have a hard time believing you can write a good story without any emotional investment in your characters. I mean, if you don’t care what happens to them, why should your readers? I have an equally hard time believing that God went through the trouble of creating us and doesn’t care whether we live or die. Honestly, that sounds more like a Lovecraftian God than the God of the Bible.

  • Absolutely. That’s my problem with annihilation- it’s still a fear tactic.

  • Cedric Marc Klein

    While there are many literalists, the vast bulk of ECT preaching I’ve heard (and at times past, espoused) would dismiss your “tortured by fire” chorus as a caricature of what they believe.

  • Bill Wilson

    Imagine a man who has spent his life gleefully exploiting and tormenting the weak. After he dies he is given two choices. He can either suffer in flames or spend eternity serving his former victims in gracious humility. Which of those choices would truly be Hell for that man?

  • Key

    Well, you’ve now hit on one of those things I most dislike about some forms of Christianity: the special-use definitions. When such people use words like love, mercy, and justice, they mean something entirely different than the commonly used definitions of those words. And what really gets me, is how they so often refuse to actually define those terms. So please, define those three for me. Go ahead and use “for people, they’re like this, but for God, they’re like that entirely different thing” if you need to. I look forward to a description of love that is both accurate and allows for eternal torture – “He loves you enough to keep you in agony forever” seems pretty counter-intuitive.

    You say we need to trust in God’s character. I actually have a problem with that, at least as presented. You claim that God’s definitions of several important attributes are not only radically different than our own, but that they are so different as to be unknowable. If justice is not a justice understandable to humans, then why use the same word? And without at least some mutual understanding, there can’t really be any trust, can there? What assurance do we have that God’s own unique version of justice doesn’t include “misleading the humans” as a permissible activity? I guess “lying is wrong” one of those places where divine and human concepts of justice line up. But for some reason, harming others isn’t. There’s no consistency here, so where’s the basis for trust?

  • Dan Miller

    I’m sorry you don’t like special-use definitions, but that’s the reality of using a changing, living language and translating a text that has a fixed meaning. There are words that one time accurately communicated biblical text that have changed their meaning over time. “Love” is a word that has changed. While “God is Love” may have at one time been an accurate translation, as our cultural definition of “love” continues to move towards a feeling, we continue to lose something in the translation. It’s not that God’s definitions are different than our own – it’s that the English translation is very different than the original Greek. Another example is the word “holy.” We use it like ‘holier than thou’ – to show a moral quality. But in reality, the Hebrew word isn’t about morality, it’s basically saying that God is not like us. He’s different, something totally other. The problem is translating an ancient text into another language. There are difficulties and misunderstandings.

    Justice IS understandable to humans at some level. But as scripture teaches, we can’t see it in it’s fullness. The doctrines of the fall, original sin, total depravity (depending on your Christian tradition) all point towards the fact that we’re missing something. We love, but we don’t love in the fullness God loves. We’re patient, but not in the fullness that God is patient. We’re just, but not in the sense that God is just. It’s not that God is lying or tricking us, it’s that sin has real effects on the way that we operate in this world. We have a sense of justice just like we did when we were created, but that sense of justice isn’t perfect. And in those moments that our sense of justice contradicts what God’s word teaches (i.e. the doctrine of hell) we have to remember our fallen state and trust that He is Just.

    The problem with these new interpretations of scripture is that 1) they contradict the church’s teachings for 2,000 years, and 2) they are not an honest attempt at interpreting scripture. They are an attempt to explain away a doctrine that is uncomfortable. I would surmise that any atheist who doesn’t believe the bible and thinks it’s all made up, if they studied it, would come to the belief that it teaches a doctrine of a real hell. Obviously they wouldn’t believe it’s true, but I’m confident that without an agenda, the bible is very clear about hell.

    The problem isn’t a definition of love – it’s ultimately the belief that our idea of justice is the ultimate. People that reject the teaching of hell simply believe that their idea of justice (rejecting Jesus on earth isn’t worth an eternal punishment) is more fair that what the bible says about God’s justice (that hell awaits those who oppose Him.) People are allowed to believe that if they want, it just frustrates me when people reject what is clearly in scripture, and has been believed by the church since the first century

  • Dan Miller

    No, I don’t adhere to dispensation theology, and I’m just confused why you keep throwing out all these random thoughts about my theology.

    I feel like you’re taking a lot of your anger about your upbringing and theological conversations on someone you don’t even know.

  • Dan Miller

    ” I’m puzzled why you don’t tell me the name of your seminary.”

    1) you didn’t ask
    2) I only brought up my seminary degree because you encouraged me to read up on the topic, as if I hadn’t. I have no intentions of trying to use my degree as some sort of authority – just to say that I’ve a considerable amount of academic study on theology as a whole.

    I’m absolutely against dispensational theology. I don’t think it’s a good reading of scripture. It also emerged in the 19th century, and goes against the historical teaching of the church (much like the belief that hell is not a real place of torment)

  • Key

    Still no definitions, then. You say that the meanings have changed since the Bible was first written, with the implication that the meaning to us drifting AWAY from what was intended. Why would that necessarily be so? We certainly seem to understand a great deal more about a far vaster array of subjects than people thousands of years ago – couldn’t love and justice be among those subjects we understand better now, or should we privilege older understandings of things instead? I think I remember you saying you went to seminary in some other comment – if so, is your knowledge and understanding of biblical subjects less than that of a similarly educated person in the 7th century, or has theology actually advanced since that time? I feel certain there have been some important developments in theology in at least the last thousand years.

    As an aside, when you accuse others of “attempt[ing] to explain away a doctrine that is uncomfortable,” that is the exact same sort of problem I find in the theology you present. If Hell is real, it would seem to indicate that God may not be loving or just or merciful, because most people can’t wrap their heads around the idea of loving someone enough to torture them forever. But the Bible says that God IS loving and just and merciful – which appears to be a very important contradiction. And the sort of evasion most commonly presented, of hand-waving it away with an “oh, that term just means something different to God” feels like exactly the sort of dishonest attempt to “explain away a doctrine that is uncomfortable.”

  • Tracy

    That is a silly argument. No one is every going to choose that. But by rejecting God, Hell is the only alternative. There are glimpses of Hell now on earth, and glimpses of heaven. People are in hell already. Some know they are, some do not. Some it’s their own making, others its not. Free creatures with free choices… left to our own devices we seem to turn inwards on ourselves. I don’t agree with Dante’s views on hell, but I do think life without God is hellish, as we were created to be connected to Him. I don’t, and would never state I have a complete picture of the afterlife, but between the bible and observation of this world, and from one who has been on both sides of the fence, sadly, left to our own devices, humans self destruct.

  • Tracy

    Read some of C S Lewis’s writings on Hell. Maybe the gates of hell are locked from the inside? The great divorce is a book that gives us pause…. and looks at things from a different perspective. His mentor George MacDonald was a universalist. C S disagreed with him on this point, but defended his position that all would need to come to repentance in order to be saved, if universalism were to be true.

  • Tracy

    I was merely stating that Calvinism and Universalism both require the will of the person to be over rided. I understand that you think that they might repent when they see God, so in that sense their will would not be violated, and you have historians that believe the same as you do, but I do not think that. We are really talking about the old creation verses the new. Only those who are part of the new creation will live on the new earth. The old will pass away, and all those who are not of the Spirit won’t be able to live on the new Earth. I guess if you think there is a choice after people die maybe? … because that’s what it comes down to for all to be saved – as ALL have to repent. You cannot live on the new earth with your old nature intact. It rebels against it’s maker. I dearly wish all are saved, I just don’t see that from scripture sorry. :(

  • Linda

    The words of Jesus Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even Pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect,”

    If you believe Jesus is God how can you believe he said these beautiful loving words and yet he would burn his “enemies” in everlasting fire and torment?

  • A torture chamber?

  • Tim

    Right. The assumption (that all who hold to non-universal salvation views make) is that at some point repentance isn’t possible. I see no hard evidence for that in scripture however. Quite the opposite in fact.

  • Tracy

    And I see the opposite. That is the weird thing with scripture. If only God had just spelt it out clearly to stop all this confusion, and we knew exactly what the plan was, but no… he had to go all mysterious on us. :)

  • Dan Miller

    I don’t think you understand what I’m trying to say about language. It’s simply that word meanings in English change quickly now with instant media, and if we don’t re-translate the bible when those English words change, we’re in danger of losing the author’s original intent of the bible. Maybe I’m not communicating that well, but the point is that translation is difficult (there are multiple words in Greek that we translate to ‘love’ – and they all have different meanings.) I can say “I love pizza” and “I love my wife” but we mean very different things when we use the word. We have to understand that we cannot just pick our favorite English meaning of a word and assume it encompasses everything that the English translation of the bible means when it says things like “God is Love.”

    Here’s where we differ: God says He is Love. We both agree on that. But in scripture we also see Jesus talk about eternal fire. He warns of hell. We see Him returning in Revelation to judge the world, which includes sending people to a lake of sulfur. I take both of those things and figure they must be true. Love must be able to include ultimate judgment of sin, which could be eternal.

    You take the “God is Love” statement, and assume that those things must not be true then. My question for you is – why do you believe the bible when it says God is love, but not believe Jesus when he warns of eternal punishment?

  • Tim

    I’m curious what you would do with Paul’s statement (among others) about God being “all in all”, or “all and in all” (as some translations have it) at some point at the ‘end’. Not to mention the fact that the narrative trajectory of entire body of scripture and especially the New Testament is the restoration of everything. One mistake I see frequently made in these discussions (not necessarily saying that’s what you’re doing here) is the assumption that the book of Revelation holds all of the keys to what happens at the end. But most of Revelation is actually an ongoing narrative of how things are now that Christ has begun a new creation, and it’s actually in Paul’s letters that God’s endgame is revealed, albeit somewhat cryptically in places. It’s not always spelt out what Paul means by certain things, but often one can see what he’s getting at by following his analogies.

  • Cat lover

    In other words, “might makes right.”

  • Greystone

    Thank You !! I think your right about other books. One that did seem to help her was “Making sense of the Bible” by Adam Hamilton. I am also going to encourage her to read “the great divorce”. I’ve also been looking at finding another church that isn’t so fundamentalist.

  • Mr. Annoying

    I refer you to my analogy above. The adult child who chooses living on the streets rather than have anything to do with you in a self-centered and short-sighted bid for the feeling of freedom is still your child, and may even be loved by you. However, forcing them to abandon the lifestyle they have chosen would violate the law and take away their free will. I find the notion of a God who ignores its own laws on whims and takes away free will to be a disturbing notion, don’t you?

  • Sheila Warner

    No Dispensational theology. Hmmm….You refer to the book of Revelation as portraying Christ coming back in judgment. That’s pretty close to how my dispensational believing pastor read the book. I believe Revelation is an allegorical book, meant to comfort persecuted Christians at the time, and it, with the exception of the last chapte,r describes the situation surrounding and including the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Revelation is a book about what has already occurred, again, with the exception of the last chapter. I believe David Currie makes a great case for this in his writings. So, what is the name of your seminary? You knew I wanted that information, but played cutsie with “you didn’t ask”, while still not telling me. Most folks I know tell me “I have a ____degree from____” when discussing their educational history. So, you have what type of degree from which seminary?

  • Sheila Warner

    You may be correct in your assumptions. I will give it some thought.

  • Brett


  • SamHamilton

    Why must I believe Hell is an “eternal torture chamber” as opposed to a place set apart from heaven to which some souls go? Why are you fixated on the words “eternal torture chamber?” It’s not like the only choices are “No Hell” or “eternal torture chamber.” Hell could be something other than an eternal torture chamber, right? And if God created this world, in which some people live pretty horrible lives, why’s it such a stretch to believe a place exists in the afterlife that is less pleasant than Heaven?

  • Jeanne Fox

    Fat Ugly Lives Matter.

  • SamHamilton

    Danti didn’t write his work to be taken as a literal explanation of what Hell looks like. He separated out the levels of sin in Inferno as a way of talking about sin and what it does to us.

    This “Got Questions” sight isn’t saying that different levels of punishment should make us feel better about Hell. It’s still saying “hell stinks,” but it might contain different levels of punishment (using weak examples from scripture). It’s not trying to console us that our unbelieving grandmom isn’t suffering as much as Hitler.

  • SamHamilton

    Thanks for the information Jeanne.

  • SamHamilton

    If this narrow group of people is all Mr. Corey is trying to reach then why title the blog post as he did as if he’s addressing everyone who believes in Hell? He could have addressed it as I suggested and avoided a ton of confusion in the comments section.

    Obviously, your and my experiences growing up in the church are very different.

  • SamHamilton

    It sounds like you have a lot of baggage from your upbringing. I’m sorry for that.

  • I absolutely agree.

  • Jeanne Fox

    Benjamin Corey, do you think some people are predestined to go to hell?
    Romans 9:21-22 mentions vessels for dishonorable use and vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. That sounds as if God has it in for certain people.

  • SamHamilton

    The overall tone of the article is that God is too nice for anything like Hell to exist.

    That’s what I took away from it too. Not just that the fiery torture part is too malevolent, but that anything less than full rewards of heaven would be because that’s what we’d want for our own children. If it was just me misreading it, I’d say it’s probably my fault, but it’s clearly more than the two of us.

  • Brett

    I should hope so being fat and ugly myself i would hate to be discriminated against ; )

  • Key

    Oh, I understand exactly what you mean concerning language and meaning changing over time, and difficulties in translation. That is, in fact, the reason I was asking for a definition in the first place. I don’t assume the Bible was written in English; I have actually heard of koine Greek and Aramaic, philos and agape. What I mean by asking for a definition is for you to offer some sort of explanation how even those ancient terms for love could contain a “will torture you forever” option. Here you’re merely asserting that such a definition must exist, not actually explaining anything.

    I don’t necessarily assume statements relating to hell aren’t true, but I do assume that many are more figurative than actual. They’re certainly important, and worthy of discussion by people far better at this than I am. I just can’t read the Bible like I would read a history textbook, so I’m already used to thinking about at least some direct statements as more figurative than actual. So heading to Revelation seems like a bad way to go.

    Jesus said a lot about the poor, the weak, and the persecuted. He said a lot about doing good for others, even when they hurt you. He forgave people as they were killing Him. His message didn’t seem to be “turn the other cheek, because God will flay the one who slapped you,” or “blessed are the poor in spirit, for their enemies shall be roasted.” Which is it? No greater love has a man than that he would give his life for a friend, or no greater love has a man than that he would torture that friend?

    Ultimately, I cannot adequately reconcile these two, seemingly conflicting messages. The one that Jesus acted out in life seems to be the more direct and pertinent message, however, and the thought of posthumous torment seems a good bit more ephemeral. So that’s how I treat them. You, by contrast, seem only to assert that both are simultaneously equally true, regardless of apparent contradiction. If you hold that this is some sort of divine mystery, to be taken in faith alone, that’s perfectly fine. But it is also a point on which we will disagree. To agree with you I feel I would have to ignore a very important contradiction, and I can’t bring myself to do that.

  • Dan Miller

    I think that’s a fair assessment of our differences. I think we have to expand our conversation to love and justice if we want to talk about why God would send people to hell. For one, we long for justice from our oppressors. As comfortable, wealthy Americans assuming you are), most of us can’t relate to this. In fact, many people who have undergone intense abuse and oppression couldn’t worship a God that would overlook such injustice.

    As Miroslav Volf writes…

    “If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence— that God would not be worthy of worship…. The only means of prohibiting all recourse to violence by ourselves is to insist that violence is legitimate only when it comes from God…. My thesis that the practice of non- violence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many…in the West…. [But] it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human non- violence [results from the belief in] God’s refusal to judge. In a sun- scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die…[with] other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.”

    He is advocating non-violence in this paragraph, but his overall point is that we can only be peaceful if we believe in a God that is capable and willing to punish our oppressors.

    My view is that though you cannot see love in God’s justice, many cannot see God’s love without it. A God that doesn’t punish such things isn’t just. It’s what the Psalmist wanted, and it’s what Paul told believers to do in Romans 12: let God handle it, because God is just.

    You say a definition of love cannot include eternal punishment. What then, does that say about the ones that were oppressed? If God loves them, why is he unwilling to administer justice on their behalf?

    Again, I appreciate your thoughts.

  • Alf Penner

    Thanks, Benjamin. I, too, question the existence of hell – at least the one caricatured by traditional evangelicals. From reading your posts in the past, I understand that you support an annihilationist view of ‘hell’. I myself do not, as I think it suffers from the same flaws as eternal conscious torment. A sincere question to you: which of your children would you be willing to shoot in the head? Using you ISIS metaphor from this and previous posts, it seems to me that God annihilating non-believers is akin to executing them. Sure, it might be quick and painless, but the fact remains that God has (or has allowed) someone’s soul to be ‘killed’. In my opinion, annihilationism does not go far enough in demonstrating God’s love and mercy for us. Personally, I am a proponent of ultimate redemption.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    Good luck! Those churches exist, but aren’t always easy to find . . . I want to recommend a branch, but the problem is that finding one that you’ll agree with totally is nearly impossible (if there is a progressive church that believes in the sacraments and just sorta throws its hands in the air at all the “hot button” topics, I have yet to find it), and it depends so much on the pastors and community. I’ll pray for you to find a place you feel both safe and challenged. Also, I’m going to check that book out, so thanks for the suggestion! :)

  • Tracy

    ok my take on most of scripture is that it is written in past tense. Revelation, apart from the last 2 chapters maybe, are all about 70AD and the lead up to it. John is warning those of what is to come SOON. Not in 2000 years time. Paul in his letters is usually addressing problems within the early church, but yes, it can also apply to our lives in 2015 as well. So to the subject of universalism. On the subject of Hell – Jesus and the apostles spoke about it too much for us to ignore. When Jesus wept over the imminent fall of Jerusalem,He said, how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks, but you were NOT WILLING. Matt 23:37. Jesus is a gatherer, not an executioner. He longs to gather us to himself, but some as not willing. So the question really is – what happens to the unwilling? We have 3 options ultimately. The traditional view – the unwilling suffer for eternity, the universalist view – the unwilling become will and enter heaven, or the annihilationist view – the unwilling exit stage left. We have been told our souls are immortal, but Jesus never said that. In John 3.16 he gives us two choices. and only one of them leads to eternal life. There are nearly 2 dozen scriptures in the NT that talk about Hell, and 80% of them indicate a final death for those who refuse life. Jn 3:36 for example. On top of that there are many more scriptures that don’t refer directly to hell, but make plain a fatal outcome for those who refuse life. Two outcomes. You will either have eternal life, or you will not see life. I don’t believe God is the instrument of death. People do it to themselves. Because of Jesus, we all get the same choice Adam did. Tragically, some make the same choice Adam did. Our father isn’t going to force the Pharisees and the haters to come to the party, if they don’t wish to come. He gathers the WILLING because he is a God of love. and love must be free, or it is not love. The central message of the bible is CHOOSE LIFE. It is not avoid hell, or do nothing, but CHOOSE LIFE. That is the message that God preached to Adam, and that is what we preach today. Choose Jesus, who IS the life. Oh may i recommend N T Wright who is somewhat of an expert on Paul and his writings. He might be able to explain better than I some of those passages you refer to above.

  • Sheila Warner

    Good point. And, we did.

  • Sheila Warner

    I meant, they are. We did have different upbringings.

  • Sheila Warner

    Still awaiting that seminary name….

  • Dan Miller

    The fact that you keep asking me, and the fact that you continue to bring up people from your past tells me your interest is to just bash me.

    You tried to say that I was dispensationalist because I believe in a literal second coming, which shows me you have little understanding of dispensationalism, or the historical belief of a literal second coming.

    I’m done conversing with you because you have all these half baked ideas that remind you of some pastor or family member you had. I’m also not telling you my seminary because you simply want to know so you can stereotype my beliefs without listening to me, just as you’ve done this whole time. I also come from a different tradition than the seminary I went to, which will mean your assumptions about me probably wouldn’t be true anyway, The worst part is you get all these ideas confused and don’t really understand each concept, and say strange stuff like “my pastor believed in a literal second coming and he was dispensationalist, so you must be too.” Do you know the vast majority of denominations and Christians thoughout history have believed in a literal second coming? You are in the small minority that does not. Dispensationalism is a 19th century invention, and the traditional view of a literal second coming goes back to the early church.

    I just can’t continue this conversation with you because you are not interested in what I say, you’re only interested in trying to tell me what I believe based on your history. I will not be responding to anything else you have to say.

    I’m sure you’re a wonderful person, but I just don’t see this conversation being productive at this point.

  • Jeanne Fox

    Me eating popcorn in heaven: hey! There’s Sadam Hussein! There’s Pol Pot!

  • JP

    Here is what Christ taught about hell: ” If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” Matthew 5:29-30

  • Key

    Well, to address points in order of appearance (roughly):
    ****edit point: ick, didn’t realize I wrote a small book here. Sorry for the wall of text.****

    First off, you nailed it. I’m an American, and have never been particularly oppressed. Yet to think that I can’t empathize with those who seek relief from oppression is… just wrong. I’ll freely admit, it’s not a “I’ve been where you are and survived what you’re going through” sort of empathy, but it damn well is a “I’m trying to help in whatever way I can” sort.

    Second off, nowhere did I really say that I think God overlooks injustice. I question the scale and scope overall of Hell. One core tenet that most non-tyrannical societies develop is the idea that the scope of a punishment must reflect the scope of the crime. A thief may deserve a fine, or pain, or servitude (depending on the society in question). If the thief gets messily executed the rest of that society tends to react poorly, as it violates everyone’s sense of justice. Even in the happy-to-execute-people Southern US, almost everyone would be disgusted by the idea of torturing a murderer to death over days. Because it violates that sense of justice which says that punishments should reflect the scope of the crime.

    What monstrosity of a crime would warrant eternity? If a prematurely and wrongfully ended human life is worth even a thousand years of torment, the result is still finite. Even for people like (sorry for the Godwin) Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Temujin, and several others. Sure, stars could be born and die within the time of their punishment, but in the end it would still be finite.

    Which is more important a facet of justice, anyway: repair, or punishment. Justice is just as much about making things right for the victim as it is punishment. I know that if someone else purposefully causes me harm, I am far more focused on fixing that harm than I am on punishing the person who caused it. If my car is destroyed, my reputation trashed, or my arm broken, I would far rather have my car replaced, my reputation repaired, and my arm healed, than to hear that the perpetrator had been punished. The Beatitudes seem to indicate that Jesus was pretty concerned in this direction too, since they seem to go “Blessed are X, for [situation will be corrected].” I could be wrong, but I tend to think that most anyone would rather hear that eventually God will fix things, not merely punish those responsible.

    I’m not too sure Miroslav Volf is, though google will be informative shortly. In the meantime, I’ll just say this: I find something profoundly disturbing about his “thesis” as he calls it. Requiring bloody vengeance seems more a mark of following Khorne than Jesus. To his entire piece here, I would ask: What is forgiveness? Is it a temporary thing, given by a victim to those who harm them only under the understanding that the oppressor will meet a horrifying end eventually? Or are we to forgive others how Jesus seems to say God forgives us, erasing the wrongdoing as much as we can from memory and motivation? That first option seems not to be forgiveness at all; if anything it feels like a petty but unstated “wait until my big brother gets a hold of you!”

    For that matter, I’d certainly admit that the thought of divine vengeance offers solace to the suffering. But if a theology based on vengeance offers any mercy whatsoever, it risks disappointing its adherents. Mercy and love must, in such a theology, be reserved only for the in-group, and denied utterly to the out-group. Which seems to go against Jesus’ instructions in general, and even some Old Testament provisions about being kind to strangers since the Israelites were once strangers in Egypt. Unless that’s meant as “be nice for this short time they have, because God will burn them one day.” Why be good to the unfaithful, unless it’s out of some rotten form of pity at the fate you imagine for them.

    But vengeance-driven theology has an even bigger flaw than that: forgiveness. I’m sure that during the European Wars of Religion (right after the Protestant Reformation), Christians on both sides took comfort in the thought that God would take vengeance on their enemies. Or for a more pointed hypothetical: assume a young tyrant takes the throne in some ancient kingdom, and behaves like young tyrants do. Persecuting their people and neighbors to a terrifying extent. During one of the inevitable purges, a firm believer in divine vengeance is killed, and on his mind the entire time is how God will punish this vile king. But what happens if that evil king converts and repents of his wicked ways? According to most Christian theology I’ve ever seen (assuming the conversion and repentance is genuine), the king winds up un-punished in heaven, right alongside his victims. Where then is the vengeance that should have befallen the evil ruler? Where is the revenge that that faithful martyr was basing his theology around?

    To answer Volf’s last point, that “In a sun- scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die…[with] other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.” I can only say that, to me at least, he mistakes failures for doom. I know I cannot be perfectly forgiving to others, but I think it is the ultimate standard to strive for. And not a forgiveness that merely waits for God to do what I deny myself, but the same sort of forgiveness that I ask God for. If I fail in this, it is merely a failure on my part, not an indictment of forgiveness as a concept.

    ***edit point 2: Finally, and with no good place to really add this in, punishment can be instructive. I hate to infantilize things, but it’s the first example that comes to mind: one child steals a toy from another. An instructive punishment makes the child share with their victim and recognize why what they did was wrong, while the vengeance-driven punishment merely applies pain in some fashion. Which seems more effective at preventing future bad behavior? Maybe I’m reading a little too much of A Christmas Carol, but confronting people with the fallout of their wrongdoing, making them recognize and empathize with those they’ve harmed, and work to correct things, seems extremely just. It also seems potentially hell-like when scaled to some of the previously-mentioned people under that “a thousand years per life ended” part above.

    TLDR version: Eternal punishment conflicts with any real concept of love or mercy I can articulate without double standards. Justice can involve both punishment and repair, but eternal punishment also conflicts with my understanding of justice. Reliance on divine vengeance is one thing, but reliance on all-consuming vengeance makes no sense to me, especially in light of conversion and repentance. Christians are instructed to pray in part by asking for forgiveness as we forgive others, and “forgiveness in this life but hellfire in the next” seems like an extremely awkward thing to request for oneself.

  • JP

    Not all of mankind are the children of God in the Christian sense. John 1:12-13 says there are conditions to being the children of God: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. “

  • Good point, good point. I sometimes have pondered whether or not this is “hell” already and God is just bringing us through it.

  • Tim

    I agree with the mostly historical perspective on Revelation. There is however a good case to be made for the various choices you’re referring to in the judgment passages, all being encapsulated in timed statements. Whatever judgment(s) on humans take(s) place, only take place for an “age”, never for “eternity” as we understand it . In the Greek, all of these judgment passages that indicate “eternality” only seem final because of the transilteration between Hebrew/ Greek and English. But they all use the word “aion” and its derivatives/ cognates, which doesn’t indicate endlessness in and of itself, without other qualifiers (which are absent from these passages). An aion always has a beginning and an end. It is a statement of time and/ or quality. We also have other (positive) statements in scripture indicating that God will ultimately redeem his entire creation. I agree that the consistent message is choose life, but what happens when we don’t choose it is that separation from that life only lasts until such time as we do choose it. That is why the gates of the New Jerusalem in Revelation are never shut. I have never seen anyone successfully prove from scripture that there is a time limit on this, even postmortem, because these arguments fall apart when you look at context and original language. Same thing with “hell”. Hell is an English transliteration of three completely different Greek words (and sometimes one in Hebrew from the OT), one of which is a physical place name. Gehenna is the one Jesus spoke of, and this was referring specifically to an actual physical place and the AD70 judgment. Regarding destruction, this is the word ‘apollumi’, which often if not always indicates a state that is clearly reversible from its use in context where it is found in the new testament. I could go on, but you get the idea. It is not anywhere near as cut and dried as it appears from our English translations.

    Thus far, I haven’t quoted directly some of the positive and fairly clear statements we have in scripture. These are some of the ones I’m referring to when I ask; “what do you do with these?”

    “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19).

    “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he many have mercy on them all” (Romans 11:32).

    “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

    “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

  • Sheila Warner

    Wow, this is the best response I’ve seen. I learned quite a bit from this particular thread. First of all, I have some issues that pop up in my own comments that I post. I need to be less judging and more engaging. Secondly, put out why I hold a particular view as you did, thoroughly dissecting what was presented in a common sense, and reasonable manner. I really appreciate your POV as well as HOW you wrote it. I have failed miserably in my own interactions. Thanks for being a kind of role model on constructive engagement.

  • Sheila Warner

    Very good points!

  • One of the scariest things here if not the most scary thing is that there are indeed a great number of parents that would do such a thing. They’d say “Yes, I would kill my son” / “burn my son” / etc because that’s what Abraham vowed that he would do. It’s in the Bible in black-and-white, after all, that Abraham was perfectly willing to snuff out his child in the most disturbing manner if God really wanted it.

  • Mike

    I wouldn’t kill any of my children even if God told me too, but Abraham was willing to do it, and not only is he not condemned for it, he is commended for it even in the New Testament.

    I’m not saying these aren’t troubling issues, but the problem with the Progressives is that no one in the bible lives up to their standards except MAYBE Jesus. The Father doesn’t even come close to living up to Progressive Christian standards.

  • As someone that has suffered from schizophrenia-like symptoms myself before, and have had family members struggle with related diseases, I find it really horrifying that Abraham’s actions are viewed as something to be lauded rather than condemned. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that God exists, God is love, and Jesus is an instrument of God’s love. How would child murder come from a loving God? It would be the delusion of a good person that sadly has a sick mind (for a moment) that hears weird voices.

    These sort of things are a large part of why I went from being a questioning Christian to stopping being a Christian altogether.

  • MesKalamDug

    Anything forever would be hell.

    Try imagining heaven forever. So far as I can imagine eternal life would be Hell no matter how it is phrased. What actually happens when we die remains a mystery.
    All we can do is wait and see.

  • In the story, he sprang the “On second thought, don’t kill him” thing at the last minute. Given how common child sacrifice was at the time, that just makes the whole process that Abraham/God put the poor kid through even more terrifying. Goodness…

    Come on, be reasonable here.

    If a father takes her daughter to his bedroom by force, makes her strip naked, shoves her down, and prepares to rape her only to suddenly– at the very last second– say “Ooops, I changed my mind, from now on this won’t happen in this family” and just leaves, then that’s… a father that belongs in jail. It’s a sickening situation even if the actual deed isn’t done. And you can just keep going on with it with so many additional questions.

    Why was human sacrifice okay before Abraham was around but suddenly changed to be bad? And why didn’t God just forgo the whole “Psych!” routine and simply issue out a command saying “Hey, form now on, don’t sacrifice children”? Also, doesn’t it speak volumes to the incredibly evil and rotten moral character of God that child sacrifice wasn’t a bad thing from the beginning but had to be a subject of a major flip-flop and moral lesson.

  • How does it “drive home” a point?

    It’s naked cruelty for the sake of naked cruelty. And this comes from a God that already is in support of acts of racism, hatred, genocide, etc that are spread all through the Old Testament. Besides an abusive father, what also comes to mind is a child with a magnifying glass frying ants– maybe sparing some of them.

  • Given the “Everyone is destined for hell except for a tiny few, and the most likely outcome for you is burning in a lake of fire” scare-mongering that gets fed to children and sticks in the mind of those children-turned-adults, that there’s no afterlife at all for anyone is a pretty huge mercy. If all that happens after death is just inky blackness and nothingness, then I think I could accept that (or that’s at least my gut reaction).

  • The Happy Atheist

    “Not because of their race. But because the nations were like ISIS x Nazis x Communists x 100!”

    And how do you know this?

  • The Happy Atheist

    Absolutely. Jesus used Rabbinic hyperbole all the time. In fact, hyperbole is a common form of expression in Semitic languages.

  • The Happy Atheist

    You didn’t answer my question. How do you know that they sacrificed their children to Molech?

  • The Happy Atheist

    The author of what?

  • The Happy Atheist

    I’m making a point. The bible is your only source, and that is a serious problem. There is, in fact, great debate about who “Molech” really was or if children were sacrificed to him at all. It wasn’t all that long ago that most scholars identified sacrifice to Molech (“MLK” in its triliteral root) as a *Israelite* cultic practice. To insist that god had Israel wipe out whole cultures because they were irreversibly corrupt is stunningly presumptive; the only source you could possibly have is the bible, which is clearly interested in justifying its own story. That makes it a very dubious source indeed.

  • Gwen

    I think it’s possible, even on earth, for unconditional love to feel like hell. My mother loves me a lot, and sometimes that means I felt horrible and ashamed in her presence when I was treating her and myself terribly and – because she loved me – she wasn’t willing to pretend that my desire to destroy myself was a good. In those moments, I would rather have been with a stranger who didn’t give a crap about me than with someone who knew who I really was and who couldn’t help seeing all the ways in which I was lying to her and myself and denying my best self. She couldn’t have loved me in a way that took away that pain because it was self-inflicted: however unconditional and absolute her love, it was still impossible to avoid it being painful when the one thing I wanted was not to be loved.

    I’m a Catholic who believes in the possibility of hell, as a radical possibility of human free will, and that seems to me to be the orthodox position on what Hell is: being with God (love, truth, peace, joy) but still refusing to let go of hatred, lies, misery and other sin. That disconnect, when we are separated from God and from our best selves and yet obliged to be aware of God and the possibility of our best selves, is terribly painful and no one except ourselves can free us from that pain (human free will being what it is). Dorothy Sayers, in her play on the life of Jesus, explains it well when in the words she gives to Judas, after he betrayed Christ and just before his suicide: “Do you know what hell-fire is? It is the light of God’s unbearable innocence that sears and shrivels you like flame. It shows you what you are.” It isn’t what God does to us. It’s what we insist on being. The only way to spare us this suffering, while leaving us free to choose sin, is for God to somehow stop being innocent, loving or present. And He can’t, in the same way that the most loving parent can’t just *stop existing* because their child can’t bear the sight of them or the memory of their love.

  • The Happy Atheist

    I understand why you would say that. I’m a historian, though, with decades of experience in the Ancient Near East. I have more than a passing familiarity with the historiography, is what I’m saying.

    I’m being unclear about what I’m saying, I think. I’m responding to the assertion that Israel did not conduct wars of racial extermination against its neighbors. I think it is abundantly clear that that is exactly what they did. Actually, I think the relevant biblical texts strongly imply the same thing. Semitic people of that era almost always invoked divine fiat to justify these kinds of activities. It was not *their* idea, after all, but the deity’s.

  • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

    You would hurt your children if Jesus would just give you a HOLY hand-job? That’s DARK…

  • Mike

    I can understand that. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to give up on Christianity, but some aspects of it are “challenging” (to be euphamistic.) I find giving up in it far more intellectually honest than changing it without regard to anything except how one wants it to be.

  • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

    Would either of them?

  • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

    Or rather Jesus creates people so “having it in for” is a certainty.

  • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

    “our idea of justice is the ultimate”

    Religious people seem to be the only ones with this problem.

  • The fez

    Surely you are familiar with 2 Peter 3:9, that our Lord is not willing for any to perish, but wants all to come to repentance. Using the kid analogy, considert that some of your kids are addicted to drugs, and it’s not like you want them to be on drugs, or enjoy that they are choosing to ruin themselves, and you want them to get out of that pit, and you’re there for them when they seek your help in getting oit of the pit.

  • Dan Miller

    Do those who don’t believe in god have any other option than believing that human justice is the highest form?

  • JP

    In way yes. They describe something so terrible that it can only be expressed in the most extreme way.

  • Tracy

    Tim I probably lean towards being an annihilationist, so i agree with you on the term eternity and eternal not meaning forever and ever. There is time, but it is not our time. As for the gates of Jerusalem being open all day as there is no night there – I have always assumed it is metaphorical of the new kingdom. It is not an earthly kingdom where the gates are closed each night, but a new kingdom where there is no need! Gordon Fee has a good insight into revelation. Not sure tho what he says about those gates! I think God will restore, resurrect and redeem THE creation, not all creation. I don’t think every bug, animal and insect will be resurrected back to life do you? There will be a sorting…. and settling of accounts first. Then whatever happens from there…. a question for you that I haven’t found a good answer to. If all are to be redeemed and saved, why does the NT testament and especially Paul plead with such urgency for people to accept the gospel message and repent? Why bother when all will be redeemed. What is the merit of acceptance now, as opposed to later on. Be good to hear yr thoughts on that.

  • Tracy

    I agree. 1st C language was quite different to ours, and so many metaphors and hyperbole speech. Take Jesus coming on the clouds for example. Used a lot in the OT for judgement. If you know the language it makes the bible make far more sense!

  • Wes Mahan

    You posit that Hell is not a Biblical teaching, then appeal to logic and rationality to disprove Hell, not showing us purely scriptural reasons why you think Hell isn’t biblical. Which I suppose gets you around your cognitive dissonance about Scripture. If you don’t believe what the Bible teaches about Hell (it DOES clearly teach Hell), then you’re on shaky ground about everything else. So you cherry-pick, like all good evangelicals.

    After 46 years as an evangelical and missionary in Europe, I stopped believing the Bible and it’s teachings, and the theology of Hell was what started the collapse. Face it, Benjamin, without the doctrine of original sin, the need for a blood sacrifice for forgiveness of sin, and the existence of an afterlife in Heaven or Hell, what’s left? Basically, humanism: no need for the elaborate theology framework that defines Christianity. Just be kind and generous to others. I’ve found it to be simple, extremely liberating and highly recommend it to others like yourself and others commenting here, who still want to believe in God but deny or ignore the awkward, uncomfortable and inhuman parts of the Bible .

  • Wes Mahan

    “Child sacrifice was pretty common back then. In that story God said He didn’t want that from His people.”

    And yet that is clearly what God did to his own son. Sounds pretty hypocritical to me. We condemn any parent who would kill his own child, but believers give God a pass when killing his own son. Not that I believe either story, but in any case, it “does not compute”.

  • Danny

    Another question you might ask is, “if you are in heaven, how can your life there be filled with joy knowing that people are being tortured horrifically for all eternity?” Does your Christian love for your fellow humans evaporate when you get to heaven? Is this included in your God given morality? Every atheist I know would be apaulled at any human being having to endure eternal torture in the fires of hell. Who seems more moral in this hypothetical imagining, Christians or atheists?

  • Zaoldyeck

    But apparently the theology of hell states that eventually, when you die (at a time apparently chosen by god at least in some instances, such as natural disasters) the parent decides ‘nope, it took you too long to ask for my help, I’m going to start pouring molten lead in that pit instead’.

  • Zaoldyeck

    “And He can’t, in the same way that the most loving parent can’t just
    *stop existing* because their child can’t bear the sight of them or the
    memory of their love.”

    As far as I’m aware, most people wouldn’t say parents are ‘innocent’. Why should they be? They have a responsibility to their children.

    Did god interfere with doubting thomas’s ‘free will’ by giving thomas evidence that god (being omnipotent and all) knew would convince thomas that god is real? If god interfered with thomas’s free will then isn’t that saying god can and did at least once (and perhaps with the Pharaoh) limit free will?

    Would a loving parent leave child locks on their doors off? A child may have free will, but also a great deal of lack of ignorance of consequences, isn’t it the parents responsibility to keep their child safe?

    But with god, the ‘ignorance’ disparity is, as christians would say, infinite. There is no amount of knowledge sufficient to where a human being would be comparatively ‘not ignorant’ to god. So god *especially* has a responsibility to humans, his creation, because we’re *ALWAYS* like children, ALWAYS ignorant, ALWAYS needing protection, and if we don’t know how to ask, god decides to eventually say, when you die ‘tough luck, you were a shitty child, you didn’t live up to my standards, when I already knew you wouldn’t, and now you know that forever?’

    Why should ‘faith’ be the criteria? Born in the wrong part of the world, ‘tough luck, those people were convinced by false gods’? This god knows we’re children compared to it, hell, less than children, but apparently judges us forever for a insignificant length of time to god?

    This doesn’t describe a loving god, this describes a god looking for sycophants.

  • Zaoldyeck

    But I think happy’s point is what makes the bible an authoritative source in the first place as to the practices of people that the Isrealites killed off?

    That’s kinda like saying “you can trust everything that Cato said about Carthage is true”. (Or even ‘you can trust everything that was attributed to Cato as having actually been said by Cato’) The sources we’re getting clearly have their own motive to preserve in some fashion their preferred side of things.

    Do you really expect that the bible, written by Isrealites, would say “you know these guys weren’t really evil, we just waged war on them anyway”?

  • Wes Mahan

    Well stated. I’ve always thought, as you described, that the HUMAN concept of parenthood and fatherhood, is FAR better, kinder and more productive than the fatherhood that God displays in the Bible.

  • A_T_T

    Has the author wrestled with CSLewis and his definition of hell?
    Even more interesting is Graham Maxwell’s views on hell.

  • Zaoldyeck

    What do you mean by ‘highest form’? The problem appears to be you, or religious individuals in general, asserting that a concept such as a ‘highest form’ is the ‘true morality’, regardless of whatever concepts you’ve come up with”.

    (That isn’t even limited to religious people, despite Giauz’s claim, Ayn Rand certainly claimed she had ‘objective morality’ that appeared to fail to deliver on said promised claims)

    What does morality in practice mean? Can you imagine an evil god? One like, say, Cthulhu? If Cthulhu declares ‘only my morality is the right morality’ does that mean we should all start slaughtering each other at Cthulhu’s command?

    What is morality supposed to *DO*? “It’s not supposed to make us care about others, it’s *really* supposed to just be about appeasing a god who is likely to make you suffer if you don’t appease it”?

    Isn’t that kinda the logic used by cults that practiced human sacrifices? Isn’t that kinda an evil description for a god?

    I wouldn’t say that morality which serves other humans is the ‘highest form’ of morality, it just seems to be the most useful one for making our fellow humanity collectively happier.

    A god who wants us to care more about it than our fellow human beings, and worse, will punish us if we don’t, is as far as I’m concerned ‘evil’.

  • Gwen

    I’m not sure what responsibility and ignorance have to do with the point I made, which is purely about how unpleasant the presence of God can be (and the presence of love and truth generally can be) in situations where the person has, with true knowledge and consent, rejected love and truth. If someone is invincibly ignorant of something, they can’t have consciously rejected it and the doctrine of damnation doesn’t apply to them.

    I think perhaps you are assuming I hold evangelical or fundamentalist views that I don’t hold, and that the Catholic Church doesn’t hold, and this is my own fault for not commenting on the differences here. The RCC position on salvation for non-Christians is found in the Catechism of the Church and basically goes:

    “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

    The conditions for mortal sin – ie damnation, in the absence of repentance – are grave wrongdoing, knowledge of the seriousness of the wrongdoing, and full consent of the will to the act constituting the wrong. I am in mortal sin when, and only when, I look at something that is fundamentally inconsistent with God’s nature – for example, passionate hatred and jealousy of a person more successful than I am – and know it to be what it is and decide that I want the pleasures of this hatred and choose to feel it and act on it knowing that my motive is hatred and jealousy and knowing that hatred and jealousy are what they are. If in this state, I start trying to think of God – trying to pray – the cognitive dissonance is truly horrible. While I’m holding tightly to the version of myself that loves hatred and wants to triumph over someone else, God’s presence is an insult to me because (this is what Sayers means by the unbearable innocence of God) nothing in God’s nature can collaborate with me in my hatred and my embrace of lies (eg the lie that I am more important than my neighbour and have the right to trample her happiness underfoot to get mine). I hate it. I can’t bear to be near Him, in my mind, when I am clinging to my hatred. The more clearly I feel God’s presence, the worse it is; one reason why sin becomes obsessive and repetitive and leads to other sins, in my experience, is as a distraction from having to sit with the knowledge of this element in you that you refuse to give up and that shares no part in God. After I die, I will have no other choice but to be in the presence of God. There’s no more distractions and nowhere to run away to. If I don’t give up this element of myself, if my choices have shaped me into a person who just won’t ever give up on hatred and jealousy, then eternity will be horrible for me. The only way God could change that is by ceasing to be God (embracing hatred and jealousy as good) or by ceasing to exist (so that I can be comfortable in hatred and jealousy without the painful reminder of love and truth), both of which can’t be.

    This is why, to stick with Judas as our example for a moment, looking at Christ on the cross is utterly different for him than it is for St John the Evangelist or for St Mary Magdalene or for the mother of God. God’s innocence – His utter freedom from the guilt and violence that the Cross represents – is only a source of loving sorrow for these people, the saints, who love God and have renounced and given up their own inner violence and guilt. They can stand at the foot of the cross and be with Him, because they love Him; the resurrection is pure good news to them. But Judas has chosen to love violence and guilt – in quite a literal sense, he has chosen to value the cross more than Christ – and so the knowledge of Christ’s utter innocence, His freedom from the desire for violence that Judas possesses, makes it intolerable for him to look at Christ on the cross for another reason. It complicates the cross, to see that its victim is purely innocent: if you love the cross more than the victim, it’s enraging to see it in its true light as a monstrous weapon of torture. That’s why he can’t bear to look at it and runs away and hangs himself. That’s why, if we think of Judas in the presence of the resurrected Christ, we have to imagined a major change in Judas’ mind before he can turn and embrace the resurrection as good news. Until he makes such a change – and it’s impossible to know whether he did or not in the end, only God can know – the presence of Christ, the very goodness and love of Christ, would be an insult and a torment impossible to get away from. Which is why it’s psychologically plausible, as well as doctrinally orthodox, to say that if Judas never repented, then Judas is in hell right now: he’s in the inescapable presence of the one he crucified.

  • disqus_KVJHiycSGj

    There is no hell in the literal sense, only that which we create for ourselves in this unfolding creation of God in which we are a part of. Our thoughts alone create hell on earth. Anger, hate, jealousy, judgement of others, greed-all negative emotionally charged aspects of our minds. We all know and understand the concept of faith healing where a majority can pray for the health and well being of an individual and heal that someone. The same theory applys to the negative aspects of humanity as well. Ever walked into a room and sensed the ‘mood’ where everyone shares a similar emotion generated by a collective thought process. One hundred people thinking ‘i am sad’ and then generating that emotion/feeling together. They create an ambiance of what they feel by sheer numbers and focus. Feeling jealous of another because you want what they have or even the desire to have what you can not causes a misery with in if dwelled upon. Now take this and apply it to anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim or anti-christian. These antis sadly hold a lot of hate, intolerance and ignorance. Times that by the millions. Somewhere on this planet a nightmare appears in the real world. You see it on T.V. Hate mongering amoungst many towards another select group and horrors can and do literally appear elsewhere. We create hell, here on this beautiful world that God has given us, whos creating did’nt end in seven days. The clouds tell me this with a new painting each day, a budding flower as it opens, fades and dies, the day i held my new born son.
    The Gnostic Jesus said that ignorance is the greatest sin, the biblical Jesus taught that the Kingdom is within, that God is within, Buddha taught right thought, right action as the first step to knowing God within, the oracle temple at Delphi had the words “Man, know thyself” in the respect to the aspect of God within. I have spent most of my life searching for the truth. Since i was a small child. I searched for God in many places, religions, philosophies. And than i discovered that God was always with me. Within-not without but within. Always, had always been there. Hell is a place i create for myself within my mind/thoughts/emotions. We as humans are not our minds, we are something greater. The endless damage created by man throughout history in sheer ignorance alone to the beauty, joy and love of God, those aspects of divinity within us all, is astonishing. We are all loved and held in the grace of God. Even the most vile of us. It is our thoughts and actions alone that prevent most from seeing this and really experiencing it fully. It is our psychological mind we associate ourselves to be that blinds us and creates our hells that we inflict on others. There are two types of people. Those who accept truth-in any form that suits them and those that seek it. All truths are relative except one. The timelessness and endlessness of God.

  • cipher

    I would send ALL my children to Hell–if God told me to

    You are a sociopath – as are, I am convinced, the vast majority of conservative Christians. You shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce.

  • cipher

    It is a subculture of psycho/sociopaths, Benjamin. I don’t think you’ve ever really been prepared to face that.

    I’m convinced the vast majority of conservative Christians lasciviously anticipate our impending damnation – and no one is as resentful or self-righteous as a fundie being threatened with having his torture porn taken away.

  • cipher

    Neuroscience is demonstrating, gradually, that free will, in any sort of absolute sense, is an illusion.

    That aside, all you’ve really done is to move the goalposts back – admittedly, by quite a distance, as annihilation is preferable to torture.

  • Herm

    If we were to accept the Bible, especially the more recent New Testament, neurons are of the dust subject to collapse back into the black hole from whence they came. God is a plurality of spiritual heart, soul, strength and mind united as one by the bond of love in the Spirit, and the Spirit in Them, who chose to create a big bang, wait patiently eons, and then find the perfect form to breathe their spirit into. Physical sciences, social sciences and spiritual sciences remain three different sciences. All sciences have, from our perspective, random chaos and intelligent order. Carnally we are limited to the physical dimensions surrounding our bodies. Spiritually we are barely, if at all, out of God’s nurturing womb. Physically our will is contained, if we continue to mature spiritually our will knows no bounds as the spitting image of God.

  • cipher

    Well, Herm, you and I see it very differently. Let’s just leave it at that.

  • SeraphicFather

    One of the great fallacies of our day is that whatever offends our sensibilities must not be true or should not be accepted. The truth of revelation is that Jesus himself made clear enough statements on the reality beyond the reality we perceive or can fundamentally understand as an eschatological reality. When he said a fire prepared for ‘….the devil and his angels’ its should understood that the devil was once a child of God and is no more. It is a failed relationship on a level we cannot or do not understand. So the question about doing this ‘to one of our children’ is irrelevant.

    It is also a fallacy of the day to think we are the arbitrators of what Jesus says. That is to say Jesus says such and such about love and it is the true message and something else he says about the outer darkness and hell, etc… and its merely an addition by some later scribe. We do not stand over the word of God nor the revelation we are its servants.

  • If it was an accident, then it wasn’t a sacrifice. The story pretty much compels the “it’s God’s idea to sacrifice Jesus” narrative since any other reading invalidates the idea it was a sacrifice at all, instead some sort of cosmic misadventure.

  • Right, but it isn’t a sacrifice if God didn’t intend the whole thing. If God just sent Jesus to hang out with the monkeys, not knowing or caring that we’d kill him, that’s not a sacrifice so much as just poor planning. Sacrifice requires intention. If Jesus is a sacrifice on behalf of humanity for God, then God definitely killed him. He just used human hands.

  • Doc Thunder

    God is not a Torturer. Hell is a Satanic invention. God can heal any injury and solve any problem. He has no use for Hell.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    Well, I mean . . . but there are so many different ways to interpret the Bible, right? Like, this conversation above and below us: One person’s saying that the OT God would be fine with eternal torment, and one’s saying that no, he wouldn’t. Both are preaching — albeit loosely — about the Bible, but coming to totally different conclusions. So I agree that churches should focus on Christ and the Bible instead of getting hung up on denominational doctrine and politics, but that’s not as easy as it might seem to be at first.

    Also, I think I need more clarification on what you mean by some of your comments, because I find it hard to understand how one could “preach the prophecies of the Bible as they relate to the timely events of today” without a) ignoring the very real fact that those were prophecies directed to a specific people at a specific time; relevant for our corporate attitudes and sinful tendencies, absolutely, but difficult to create 1-to-1 ratios for without getting a bit silly, and b) getting VERY hung-up on politics and perhaps even denomination. (For example, when Isaiah speaks about neglecting the poor, is he prophesying about America’s doom unless we embrace global welfare? Because while I might believe those prophecies speak to God’s heart for the poor, I don’t know if that means one can say that THIS country will meet the same fate as Israel did. Besides, I think it’s hard to deny that there is a definite liberal slant in that interpretation of Isaiah, which isn’t a bad thing to some, but is to others.)

    Secondly, I worry that when you say “preaches the Bible to the lost,” it is too easy to translate that as “preaches the Bible to people I disagree with, and fixes them.” I mean, we’re all lost in some ways, aren’t we? While we love Christ and seek to draw near to Him, we are, and always will be while on this earth, sinners before a merciful God. If that’s what you meant, and mean that we should preach Christ to Christians, I cannot agree more and apologize for misunderstanding you. It just could be interpreted as turning our eyes away from ourselves, and solely towards our brothers and sisters in humanity.

    Please correct me in how I’ve gotten you wrong, because I want to understand your point of view. And where we disagree I hope there are no hard feelings; you gave me a lot to think about regardless. :)

  • Zaoldyeck

    So… Isreal wasn’t perfect, but you know, that’s ok, cause the other people were more wicked (so says the bible, as your only source) so Isreal’s allowed to wipe them off the map because “well they may not be perfect but they weren’t genocidal killers, they were just better than everyone else at the time, and so deserved to kill the others”.

    Again, how can you trust what the bible has to say about OTHER cultures? Why would the Isreali’s write “yeah they were so much better than us and more loving and peaceful and had a better culture but we wiped them out anyway”?

    Why would anyone ever write something like that down? Of COURSE the bible would describe surrounding nations as ‘wicked’. You need some justification for waging war don’t you? “They’re evil, thus we get to destroy them”.

    It’s still a well used excuse.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    That’s where I stumble, too; God says that everyone will be reconciled to him. So . . . was he lying or just mistaken? I don’t wanna mispreach the word of God or anything, but I don’t know how to look at the bits on Hell and the bits on knees bowing and all that without determining that one of these can’t be eternal and unrelenting, or it makes the other untrue.

    Now it makes sense to me that any sort of hell must lead to the reconciliation, because otherwise why do it? (God isn’t in the business of wasting His time; he got everything built in either 6 days or 4 billion years, either of which is still pretty damn efficient for all the complexity and beauty of creation.) And if God went all the way to sending Jesus to hell himself — which, by the way, represented ALL of the sins of all the world and still only took 3 days to conquer — I can’t imagine that he’d stop at one’s death and go, “Too bad, my hands are tied, you just didn’t pick the right lever in time.” If Jesus conquered death, then why do so many people believe that we only have this short time in life to turn to Him before the door slams shut? Did He or did He not render death irrelevant? And if He did, why can’t someone meet Jesus upon their death, go “Holy shit, I was wrong,” and repent?

    In the end I just have to assume that He’d never be anything but merciful. The punishment CANNOT exceed the crime, and in fact God has shown that He often likes to give less punishment than the crime deserves. Sometimes that’s all I can cling to.

  • Zaoldyeck

    … This entire thing makes no sense to me. You toss in unhealthy amounts of self-loathing (failing to realize the arrogance in assuming that you’re capable of acting “with true knowledge and consent”, despite the fact that humans really are forced to try to figure things out for ourselves and piece things together with ‘limited’ knowledge) and begin two paragraphs whose description seems like god exists only to make you feel bad and that somehow that’s ok even though it makes your life worse because you act even worse when you’re feeling guilty?

    If this is how the catholic faith distorts thought processes, it frankly kinda scares me. I have no idea how to make this make some coherent sense in my head.

    … I feel like I’m stuck in Twain’s Christian Science. You might as well be telling me about the “THIRD DEGREE OF CHRISTIAN SCIENCE”. As usual, the claims of ‘all these mental problems go away if you just happen to be fully and totally committed to belief in it’ are kinda hard to verify from an outside perspective, and if the claims aren’t verified, ‘you just didn’t believe enough already’ is a pretty strong built-in excuse.

  • Linda

    Yes, but throwing all of the body into “hell” is of no consequence really. It is the soul that matters. “Fire” refines the soul and burns off the doss. The soul is then purified like gold.

  • Linda

    Actually speaking of fallacies, Jesus said we are not servants. We are sons. We do not stand over the word of God but the Word is not a book- it is alive. The Holy Spirit speaks to us and draws us ever closer to love and reconciles the “conflicts & discrepancies’ found in the scriptures. Follow the living word and you can’t go wrong.

  • Linda

    Or you could just have faith. Be not afraid and continue to spread love and good news to all.

  • Gwen

    I don’t feel like I have unhealthy self-loathing, although I guess unhealthy self-loathers would say the same. I was describing how I feel when I fall into mortal sin and refuse to repent it which, thankfully, is not the main thing I do all day (or all month or all year whatever). I was trying to illustrate something about the objective connection between suffering and sin, rather than describing my own day-to-day psychological experience. But let me try to put my point more clearly, since perhaps introducing the Catholic categories of mortal v venial sin may have been confusing.

    The issue about hell is, essentially, about the connection between wrongful behaviour (of whatever kind) and suffering. The question asked here is, why would a good God inflict awful suffering on His children just because they behave wrongly? Doesn’t love forgive? The premise of this question is that wrongful behaviour in itself is completely neutral in terms of any suffering felt by the person committing the wrong: it depends on a picture of human nature that imagines us as capable of sinning happily and joyfully and without pain. If it weren’t for God showing up afterwards with a big stick, anger and hatred and lust and vanity and pride would just be one big party.

    My argument is that this picture of the disconnect between sin and suffering is inconsistent with the truth about human nature. The truth is that anger and hatred etc are just miserable states of being, precisely because our basic nature is inconsistent with these things. Since we are made for love and truth, hatred and lies hurt us by their very nature. God doesn’t inflict this pain on us. It arises by our own choice whenever we decide to act inconsistently with our own best nature. This is also how the Hindu concept of karma works. Karma doesn’t mean that the universe arbitrarily punishes you for your bad acts. It means that each bad act changes you, makes you the kind of person for whom suffering is inevitable. It’s not that, if I punch my neighbour in the head on Monday, God or karma will punish me by dropping a piano on my head on Tuesday. The second I punch my neighbour, I’ve introduced violence into my own mind and heart and this violence hurts me because my ultimate nature (my God-given self or soul or atman, in Hindu terms) is non-violent. Until I reject the violence, I will suffer. This is hell, and all there is to hell.

  • Zaoldyeck

    “The Bible is not my only source. Why the hell do you imagine that”

    Because there exist seldom few sources for that region dating terribly far back for the perspectives of other cultures, period. We don’t even have historical documents from Carthage, hell, we only tacitly know the extents of where ‘Carthage’ even was, because the romans were rather effective at wiping them out.

    And I don’t see any particular sources that would make Egypt seem any more ‘wicked’ than ancient Isreal or the surrounding nation states. “Well, Egypt didn’t have the real god condoning their expansion, so it’s fine for Israel, but not for Egypt?”

    My ‘quote’ is my understanding of what the words you are saying means. So ok, if you don’t agree with them, then perhaps you might explain to me where my intuition went off track in interpreting the words you wrote.

  • Zaoldyeck

    ” The question asked here is, why would a good God inflict awful suffering on His children just because they behave wrongly”

    I think this is probably the easiest place for me to start, because likewise, again, most of what you wrote makes limited sense to me, if any at all.

    The question I’m asking isn’t ‘why would a god inflict awful suffering on his children blah blah blah’.

    There’s one qualifier you’re missing. “Eternal”. Eternal suffering. If the concept of hell is ‘you suffer for all eternity for temporal crimes’ then yeah, this god is morally reprehensible.

    ” If it weren’t for God showing up afterwards with a big stick, anger and
    hatred and lust and vanity and pride would just be one big party.”

    But it’s not a ‘big stick’, it’s a ‘stick that you will have to endure now until forever’, it’s ‘pain and suffering that you will ALWAYS have to endure, never, EVER being allowed to be forgiven again’.

    Eternal punishment for temporal crimes is the kinda insane part.

    Edit: Also, I don’t know about you, but ‘hatred’, ‘vain’, ‘lust’, ‘etc’ aren’t some ‘party’ to me as it stands. Why would I want to be a person that hates others, how would that make me happy? It’d be a ‘party’ of misery regardless of if a god exists or not. Seriously, those things don’t need a god for me to call them bad, the simple fact of the matter is they WONT make me happy, and aren’t like a party with or without god.

  • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

    Humans disagree with each other on a lot of things. We don’t have a “highest form” of justice as if justice was like Pokemon “evolution”.

  • Gwen

    Yes, I’m saying the concept of hell is *not* “you suffer for all eternity for temporal crimes.” It’s “if you insist on being miserable for all eternity, you can if you like.” Being miserable = being angry, hateful, dishonest, unkind etc. You can stop any time you want. But no one can make you stop and no one can make a world for you in which these things will make you happy.

    I just saw your edit, which I agree with you on entirely. Yes, precisely, whether or not God exists, anger and hatred etc suck. They’re painful. What I’m saying is precisely that God doesn’t inflict the pain. The Christian claim is merely that He can take it away by helping us to absolutely and finally overcome this source of pain if we want to.

  • Zaoldyeck

    “He can take it away by helping us to absolutely and finally overcome this source of pain if we want to.”

    Eh, in that case then I think I really do prefer the description of hell. I don’t enjoy negative emotions, but they sorta come with empathy. They come with being emotional beings, I’m not sure how I can have *only* positive emotions without removing a core part of who I am.

    I feel bad when I see suffering. I get angry when I see someone getting abused, mistreated, and hurt. They’re not fun. Those negative emotions aren’t something that I ‘like’ feeling, but they are a distinct part of what makes me human and I’m not sure I’d really *want* to be a person who does not feel angry or sad about suffering.

    I can feel both joy, and sorrow. Greed and selflessness. I can understand the perspectives of others as not just binary, and the fact that I have negative emotions helps inform me of the complexity of other people’s perspectives.

    … If god is offering to remove that, it sounds like offering to remove something that makes me who I am, and offering to remove empathy.

    An eternity of any extreme seems pretty scary. But if ‘hell’ is ‘sometimes you feel bad about bad things, sometimes you feel good about good things, really, not much different from your current life. Joy and sorrow are both parts of being an emotional creature’, then sure, sign me up. If it’s not ‘eternal suffering’ then it doesn’t really sound that bad, if it’s just the normal emotions I already experience.

  • Zaoldyeck

    “There are other conclusions that can be drawn”

    The other conclusions that I hold is that ‘Israel really was just like any other semi-genocidal state in a bronze age society who cobbled together a series of stories’ which makes the bible both an interesting historical document, and a laughably irrelevant testimony to the ‘supernatural’, whose moral content could be comparable to Homer, but little more’.

    If you’d agree with this, well, then I guess we’d agree that Israel was really just like any other semi-genocidal state in a bronze age society who cobbled together a series of stories.

    But once we start saying that Israel was in some way particularly special, or worse, they were special because of their connection to some supernatural force informing their decisions, the standards of evidence required tend to mount considerably.

  • Zaoldyeck

    I get you don’t agree with either my opinions or conclusions. But if you understand why I found the arguments for that point of view convincing, perhaps you could articulate where my intuition goes off track.

    What does it mean ‘god chose them’, and why would it be important? Why them, if they were in no way special?

    And what sources are you using to come to these conclusions, if not the bible?

  • Linda

    That we are all sinners and deserving of eternal punishment was all part of a “movement” at one time as well. Ultimately our beliefs about ourselves and others and our understanding of God comes from what is in our own hearts and minds.

  • Linda

    Jesus conquered Hell. End of story.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    It’s all over but the shouting. :)

  • JP

    Hell does not purify any soul.

  • Brian K

    “Natural result” doesn’t absolve God. If nature works that way, it’s because he designed nature that way.

  • Linda


  • Linda

    No, I did not mean that Hell purifies the soul. I said “fire” by which I mean spirit. I do not believe souls go to a fiery Hell. Reference to cutting off “offending” parts of the body has nothing to do with Hell either.

  • Wes Mahan

    Oh, you mean instead of eternal torture at the hands of God, you mean eternal torture at the hands of Satan, or eternal torture that we send ourselves to, or (fill in the blank).

    I find that modern evangelicals are terribly embarrassed by hell and having to explain the concept to rational, thinking people. So they make up a load of old codswallop (British term).

    Let me say here that no one can get a coherent, consistent point of view on ANYTHING if they’re looking in the Bible. Hell, salvation, sin, sex, whatever it is, the Bible is all over the place, and anyone can support any number of opposing views with verses they find in the Bible. Which is why there are over 20,000 different denominations within Christianity, most claiming to be right or correct. Makes me laugh . . .

  • Wes Mahan

    Sorry, yes it is. THAT IS PART OF HIS PLAN OF SALVATION. Without his son dying on the cross, it’s no longer a plan or strategy. God had human beings murder his son. That was HIS plan, and no one else’s. It HAD to happen that way, according to God’s plan.

    If I have someone else murder my son, the courts regard me as the murderer, as much as the person who did it. Same with God: it was his plan, even though he made humans do it for him.

  • Wes Mahan

    PineCone: calling HappyAtheist a dubious source is specious at best. Did you try to confirm what he said about Molech or Israelite cultic practice? I didn’t think so, because if you did you would find that he’s accurate about what archaeologists have discovered about it. If you are going to appeal to the Bible as an authority, then you must respect what peer-reviewed Biblical scholars and archaeologists say about it’s claims.

  • Gwen

    “I feel bad when I see suffering” and “I feel bad when I inflict suffering” are two different states of mind. I’m saying Christianity claims that God can help us to get to a stage when we never need to feel the second (ie when we never harm anyone else, ever): that’s what the redemption of humanity means. It doesn’t mean that, while suffering continues to exist for other reasons, we wouldn’t feel it. “Jesus wept.” is one of the key sentences in the Gospels; like God, presumably, we could grieve over suffering and loss without the specific kind of pain that comes from being personally responsible for the suffering we see. To go back to the story of the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene suffered to see Christ suffer but her emotions were completely different from the emotions of Judas, who was partly morally responsible for that suffering.

    And to return from this tangent to hell: no, I’m not saying hell is “sometimes you feel bad about bad things in the world.” Hell is when you feel bad about the *good* things in the world because you won’t participate in them. This is an experience we can have on earth – it’s felt by anyone who feels envy at someone else’s happiness, and wishes it could be taken away so that they wouldn’t have to look at it – but it’s not the same as every ordinary instance of suffering that has no connection to a prior sin.

  • Zaoldyeck

    … ok, even more confused. So, heaven is never feeling bad because you can’t harm anyone but hell is feeling bad because you’re inflicting suffering even though you’re dead?

    Or is hell *entirely* temporal and there is no ‘afterlife’ or ‘eternity’, ‘hell’ is just what you call ‘sinning against god’ while alive?

  • Zaoldyeck

    I’m trying to figure out what position you do hold. I know there are ‘other perspectives’, I’ve told you mine, and I do not understand that of religious individuals.

    I’m giving you my perspective because I *think* you can understand the logical thought processes I am engaging in. I *think* you can follow at least what is informing my understanding of your words.

    However I don’t really know yours. I don’t know what you mean by ‘god chose them’, I don’t know what you even mean by the word ‘god’, and I certainly don’t know what other sources you’re using to establish any of these beliefs in lieu of the bible.

    I don’t know what information and logic informs your perspective.

    The best I’m capable of doing is saying how I interpret the words you use.

  • Gwen

    It’s not that you *are* inflicting suffering, it’s that you have inflicted suffering and that your sense of self is going to be damaged by that unless you make a decision to reject your original decision to inflict the suffering. I think the difference between us may be that you see these things are a series of separate events – A hurts B, A is upset by B’s suffering, A dies and now it’s all over – whereas I think they form people’s personalities (or souls). In my picture, if A hurts B and then A refuses to be sorry for what he did to hurt B (while still, because of human nature, feeling guilty/unsettled/angry/resentful about B’s suffering) that changes A’s personality to one of ongoing unhappiness. Even after A dies, assuming an afterlife, A is going to be the kind of person who has made those choices and has that anger and resentment in him. The past shapes who we are, both during our time on earth and after death when we enter eternity. Heaven is not only the absence of these elements in the personality but also the presence of all the best things we can become on earth (loving, playful, powerful etc). God comes in because the best things in us are how we relate to Him – He is the ground of all the good stuff – and because the bad things find no footing in Him. In hell, you cut yourself off from love and happiness because there is no way to truly access love and happiness while you are clinging to some old resentment and hatred. All this is explained much better by CS Lewis in The Great Divorce, but I think it is the orthodox position shared by traditional Anglicans, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox.

  • Zaoldyeck

    “Even after A dies, assuming an afterlife, A is going to be the kind of
    person who has made those choices and has that anger and resentment in

    But that’s my disconnect, what stops A from having a change of perspective when A is literally given the biggest change of perspective one can conceive of by ‘waking up’ after death. Lets say A ‘isn’t sorry’, personality changes, etc, why on earth would we go about saying “but upon death, A will continue to suffer for all eternity”?

    (I have bigger problems with the afterlife that relate to basic epistemology, but that’s another matter entirely, I care about the logical structure here)

    “Heaven is not only the absence of these elements in the personality but
    also the presence of all the best things we can become on earth (loving,
    playful, powerful etc).”

    … Starting to get a bit too Stepford for me to be remotely comfortable with this sounding not like torture…

    “God comes in because the best things in us are how we relate to Him – He
    is the ground of all the good stuff – and because the bad things find
    no footing in Him.”

    Starting to sound even worse….

    “In hell, you cut yourself off from love and happiness because there is
    no way to truly access love and happiness while you are clinging to some
    old resentment and hatred.”

    And there it is. “Cut yourself off from love and happiness”? Why? Because you died while still ‘not sorry’, thus, you’re forever cut off from being allowed to be sorry? Huh?

    And again, it’s very easy to feel love while feeling resentment and hatred, I know as a fact that human emotions aren’t so binary. Love and happiness, resentment and hatred, they’re human emotions, they aren’t binary, humans are capable of cognitive dissonance, and in a sorta weird way, that’s kinda I think what makes us sorta special. We’re remarkably good at being complex and nuanced, the descriptions you’re offering sound like extremes and as I mentioned, an eternity of any extreme sounds like a hell.

  • Gwen

    There’s nothing at all to stop A from repenting after death if he likes. That’s why I described hell as a “radical possibility of human free will.” If death comes as a wake up call, and the person finds that they really prefer love to hatred, that’s fine: that’s heaven. If it takes them some time to get there, that’s purgatory. It’s only if the person actually decides not to abandon the old habits of hatred etc that they are stuck with them. It’s a perfectly reasonable Christian position to say that you think, in fact, no one will do this and that hell will be empty at the end. But the hypothetical possibility of hell has to be kept open because that’s what human free will demands: we are always going to be free and therefore there is no situation in which God comes in and rescues us from our own choices, unless we ask Him to.

    I think the Stepford picture of heaven arises because we are perhaps using words like love and joy and power rather differently. You think they are simple primary emotions and a world in which you only felt these would be a flattened and weakened world. I think every human being has his own unique combination of these states of being – the person’s best self – and therefore heaven involves an unimaginable diversity of emotions and experiences. It’s just that the one set of emotions and experiences that won’t be there are those that we call evil (hatred, the will to dominate etc etc). I can live with the absence of the exquisite complexity of these desires that built Auschwitz – nothing of value is lost if we abandon these forever.

  • Zaoldyeck

    “nothing of value is lost if we abandon these forever.”

    That’s where I disagree profoundly. The fact that I’ve felt hatred, etc, is what helps inform my perspective of how humans can do things I consider morally abhorrent.

    You’re right that it sounds ‘flattened’ in a sense because it sounds as though it removes a key perspective that gives me insight to a lot of human actions.

    I guess one of the things that kinda leaves me most confused about Christian theology is its insistence on treating humans as either ‘all good’ or ‘all evil’ in one sense or another, and that we’re doomed to be one or the other.

    In a world without Fransisco Franco, would Guernica mean nearly as much? Not that the world is better for having a great work of art at the cost of countless lives, but that the *meaning* of the work, the beauty and power, comes because we know and understand the feelings associated.

    And even ignoring human tragedies, if there is a god, how could I not in some sense blame that god for natural disasters? A tsunami wipes out thousands of lives and if a god is real, who can direct nature, my human perspective would make me ‘hate’ this god as much as I ‘hate’ Franscisco Franco. The suffering caused as a result of action *shouldn’t* leave me feeling anything but resentment towards the someone/something caused this.

    Because I empathize with humans. I understand human feelings.

    I can live with not feeling negative emotions constantly, I call it ‘life’, but I would hate to experience existence where I do not feel them at all. They help inform my existence, and I don’t think I’d be ‘me’ without them.

  • Mark Martin

    sounds about right:

    Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed.
    Faith must trample underfoot
    all reason, sense, and understanding.
    — Martin Luther

  • Linda

    You know your stuff.

  • Linda

    Paul’s teaching is very gnostic

  • Linda

    No one would “choose” Hell over Heaven. People that some Christians believe are going to Hell don’t really consciously believe in Hell. They believe they can live their lives as they choose. They are not consciously choosing Hell. They are choosing to live their current lifestyle. No one would choose Hell.

  • Linda

    Doesn’t exist

  • Linda

    Right. Makes it necessary to follow the Holy Spirit

  • simplymagic

    Do you have some scriptural evidence that Satan “invented” hell? Because my understanding was that God invented hell FOR the devil, not that the devil had the power to make his own clubhouse and steal souls in spite of God. If Satan is that powerful, maybe we’ve been worshipping the wrong guy…

  • Tracy

    Have you not heard the saying “It is better to reign in hell, than to serve in heaven?”…. People choose hell all the time. They think they are going to be with their mates and play pool all day. Atheists i have spoken to want nothing to do with God, and have said they would rather go to hell that to be in heaven with a god that is a…….. whatever. They just don’t have a concept of hell that’s all. I don’t think there is anyone that truly does. All I know is that I don’t want to go there, and I am not as I am secure in the knowledge that God loves me and i am his daughter. I don’t think the focus should ever be on hell, it should be on God’s love and plan for his creation, and how that went awry from the get go, and Christ came to get it back on the right path again, with the new creation.

  • Mark Rich

    Thanks, Linda!

  • Aprylla444

    Love this article. I have always questioned the jehovah witnesses, christians, etc with the same questions. I have implied that I must be better than God at the end of each person’s desperate attempt to get me switched to their religion so I don’t go to hell. Love most of the responses but for those of you vehemently clinging to your views that Hell is real you are not answering the writers questions but rather going around his questions by purposing alternate views. I would like to see somebody’s response toward the writer’s questions who views hell as being real. Please! If you truly believe hell is real then you will be able to answer his questions

  • Wes Mahan

    ??? Did you even READ my comment? That is EXACTLY my point, I did NOT say what the Bible is supposed to say: no one can figure out a single conclusion about any particular subject, as one can justify ANY point of view from the Bible.

    Pinecone, your reading comprehension leaves a lot to be desired if you think I said “what the Bible is supposed to say” (your words).

  • Zaoldyeck

    I am telling you what I interpret the sentences you write to mean. If you tell me ‘that’s a strawman’, well, ok, but then you have to correct my intuition and tell me where the leap was.

    You accused me of ‘baiting’ you when I was asking you questions, so I elaborated on what my position and intuition of what you said means, in the hopes that you could clarify, and now you tell me I’m making a ‘strawman’ by telling you what I interpret your words as saying even after explicitly asking for clarification.

    I’m still no closer to actually understanding your position because you appear to say my questions ‘bait’ you, but my explanation behind why I’m asking my questions is apparently a ‘strawman’.

    Well if you don’t elaborate when I ask for clarification, how on earth am I ever supposed to not hold a strawman position?

  • Brandon Roberts

    nice article my beliefs on the afterlife it may or may not exist idc either way if hell does exist imo it’s prison for eternity for only the most evil and vile of humanity not atheists or homosexuals or people who aren’t causing harm to others

  • MrCorvus

    People have been incorrectly predicting the apocalypse for the last 2000 years.

    What makes you any different?

  • James Quinn

    Yes, let’s stop listening to this clown- a bible scholar- and let’s all start listening to Giselle from Disqus.

  • Realist1234

    Its a difficult subject, and those who believe in a literal eternal ‘hell’ often show little understanding of the suffering that would entail. I think Im right in saying, having read some of his previous posts, that although Ben does not believe in an eternal-suffering hell, he does believe in God’s final judgement which will, to say the least, not be pleasant for the ‘unsaved’ (does the ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ at least in part represent the realisation of what they have lost?) but that their ultimate destination will be literal destruction out of existence. I have alot of sympathy for this view, particularly as Jesus Himself talked about both body and soul being ‘destroyed’ in ‘hell’ (I appreciate that you can interpret the original greek in different ways). Even the late, great John Stott tended to have this understanding. Though Im not sure if the question Ben poses re would you do this to your own child, is appropriate, as it seems to me God ‘allows’ much suffering to humans, including children during this life, when most human parents, if they had the power would immediately stop that suffering, particularly if it involved their own children. But God usually doesn’t. The ‘problem of pain’, as CS Lewis called it, will never be resolved this side of heaven. But Ive found the more I think and study the Bible as a whole on such subjects, the more I find all may not be as clear-cut as some would think.

  • Complex Conjugate

    Isn’t it almost certain one of the first two will happen in the next three months? You don’t need prophecy to guess that.

  • Wes Mahan

    You completely avoided my point about the Bible and evangelical thinking about hell. But then, I expected that.

  • Lark62

    I hear the dollar store is having a sale on aluminum foil in case you need a new hat.

  • Lark62

    Plague has been in the western US for centuries. There are usually 2 or 3 cases a year.

    George W. believed that the second coming would begin with war in the mideast, so he started not one but two mideast wars. All this proved was that we shouldn’t elect religious wackos.

    The Himalayan mountains and the Andes and the Cascades and every other mountain range on earth were formed by collisions between continental plates accompanied by massive eatthquakes and volcanoes. Krakatoa and Vesuvius and the formation of Mt. Everest didn’t bring jesus.

    I highly recommend some courses in history and geology.

  • Lark62

    I agree. As an atheist, if I were ever to be shown convincing evidence for god I would accept its existence. But if it were the god described in the bible, I would not worship or praise it.

  • Lark62

    Yes. The whole concept of blood sacrifice is silly.

    I understand how a bronze age agrarian society could believe that the scary god sends drought and disease, and that it could be appeased by a dead bird or sheep or goat. A while back my four year old was convinced i would like a spiderman action figure for my birthday. Who wouldn’t be thrilled with such an offering? He valued spiderman. Ancient Hebrews valued sheep and goats. So of course god wants a goat.

    I understand how, then as now, priests would tell the people “God wants some of your wealth. Just leave it with me and I’ll make sure he gets it.”

    But come on. The idea that something or someone had to be killed because the all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe is pissed is just plain silly.

  • Lark62

    Adam was created last after land animals right before he was created first, before land animals.

    Jesus came to bring peace. Jesus came to bring war, setting brother against brother.

    Jesus’ teaching confirms the law. Jesus’ teaching replaces the law.

    In Christ there is no male or female, all are equal. The early church welcomed female leadership. In Christ, the man is superior, the head, and women must never exercise authority over a man.

    These are examples. Absolutely anything can be claimed as correct using the bible.

  • Wes Mahan

    Thank you Lark. Good illustrations of the myriad contradictions in this “perfect” book.

  • Danny

    That would be the only moral approach to the God of the bible. I wonder if that would makes us martyrs in the afterlife? I’m much happier believeing that this life is all we get. It’s not actually depressing when you understand how amazing it is that we exist at all and are aware of our plight. Live every day like it’s your last. Love as much as you can. That’s the meaning of life to me.

  • Zaoldyeck

    I’m struggling to figure out how to make this more clear than before.

    I do not know what your beliefs are. “What does it mean ‘god chose them’, and why would it be important? Why them, if they were in no way special?

    And what sources are you using to come to these conclusions, if not the bible?”

    Questions like these are essential for me to be able to understand what you are trying to say, so that I DON’T strawman your position.

    You have yet to answer any of those questions. You instead said “I feel you have been trying to bait me into defending a point of view I don’t hold. I tried to tell you there are other points of views, and you tried to give me another and suggest I had to accept yours or else
    go down some other road you laid out that ends with your original idea of what you imagine I believe”

    So I offered you an explanation for where I was coming from in asking.

    And then you said I created a strawman.

    … And then I explained why I am finding it difficult not to ‘create a strawman’… which… you told me I ‘created a straw man’ in response to.

    I… don’t know how to be any more clear.

    I am asking to have you tell me, in explicit detail, what you believe so that I do not do what you are complaining about.

    You still have yet to give me that, but happy to blame me for misrepresenting you despite me asking for information to *not* misrepresent you.

  • Jim_Alseth

    You mentioned having an understanding of the suffering a literal hell would entail. I think it’s appropriate to mention in this discussion an experience Bill Wiese had in 1998: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYxKRoONrfY

  • Realist1234

    I do not think it is ‘clear’ otherwise it would not have been wrestled with over the last 2000 years. Firstly even the word often used for ‘hell’ in the NT is Hades, the abode of the dead, which is also mentioned in the OT with no reference to suffering. ‘Eternal’ and ‘ever-lasting’ could legitimately refer to the eternal/ever-lasting consequences of not being saved, rather than ever-lasting conscious torment. You refer to my point re ‘destroying body and soul in hell’ – could the ‘second death’ which is spiritual death not indeed mean the literal death/destruction of the soul/spirit after judgement? The Bible does not teach that human spirits are eternal by definition – only God’s Spirit is. You also mention Jesus’death on the cross and his salvation. Indeed, but the point can also be made that Jesus did not suffer ‘eternally’ so if He really took the punishment we deserve (which I certainly believe), then why would that suffering be eternal for those who have rejected Him? Also, the Lord has promised to make a ‘new heaven and new earth’ which I presume means a new universe and spiritual realm, yet according to your view there will be a place in that new reality where billions of humans will continue to physically, mentally and spiritually suffer with no end, which God would uphold. It may be true but I do not understand why God would will that (and before you say it, I appreciate my understanding is not required for something to be true). You may be right, but I do not think this issue is as clear-cut as you make out. In the end, God is just and whatever is the truth, will be ‘good’.

  • Realist1234

    You should know that quoting dates is silly. As for the events you ‘predict’, these happen all the time – it is telling that you allow for just one of these to happen to ‘prove’ prophecies – how convenient. I believe in the gift of prophecy for today, that there will be ‘signs’ before the end etc, but what you have written is garbage and not from God. You will know from the Old Testament that God is never pleased with false prophets and their so-called prophecies, as they pretend to speak for Him and deceive his people.

  • Benji

    The fact is, I don’t personally know any Evangelicals who actually believe the traditional doctrine of hell– which is probably the reason why it is almost never preached from the pulpit, even in the most conservative circles. Oh sure, we hear lip service to it from time to time, but it is used almost exclusively as a *device* to manipulate behavior, i.e. in emotional appeals to evangelize the lost or to spook non-believers into compliance. And if you preach with any regularity and are concerned about authentic spiritual development, you know this “device” simply doesn’t work– and it never has. Fear never transforms. Love does.

    But the problem with hell is much bigger.

    The philosophical implications of the traditional view overturn all universal concepts of justice, virtue and equity and replace them with a sadist god who delights in torturing human beings for all eternity simply for moral infractions (mostly of the sexual variety) committed while in the body. Modern Evangelicals (yes, conservatives) pussyfoot around this teaching with various phrases geared to minimize the horrific philosophical reality of eternal torture. We hear this today via “God doesnt send people to hell, people CHOOSE hell” or tender talk of a “godless eternity” etc etc… I know of very few Protestant groups whose systematic theology reflects the traditional view of hell in real-time, day to day living. And this is no surprise. The position is not only indefensible from a moral perspective, but it also lacks any substantive scriptural context.

  • James

    Saving people from something he created doesn’t seem particularly omnibenevolent nor omniscient. It’s more like the bad theology mere people come up with.

  • Benji

    You believe there are fly larvae in hell? Are you aware that this verse is a quotation and direct reference to an Old testament passage?

    There are a good many people who love the Bible and the teachings of Christ who reject your view of hell, not because we have an aversion to “hard teachings”, but because your position is not supported by scripture and in fact violates several core principles of biblical interpretation. To add insult to injury, it also is morally and philosophically abhorrent.

  • Linda

    Again, no one would consciously choose Hell. I’m not referring to joking around about the possibility of Hell. I’m saying if there were an actual fiery Hell in front of a person they would not consciously choose to jump in. I personally have great respect for anyone who will not blindly follow what others believe to be true no matter the threatening and horrific possibilities. How can you fault someone for not making an eternal choice based on information from books written thousands of years ago with so much controversy over who wrote the books and how the books were chosen and the conflicts within the chosen books not to mention all the conflicts within the books that were not chosen? How can you fault someone for not accepting a God whose schizophrenic disposition is described as being wrathful, warring, jealous, and ever ready to annihilate his own children but is also described as love incarnate! Does anyone really believe that if Thomas was alive today he would accept? Well, it’s quite obvious that he would not. The real Thomas knew Jesus. He saw miracles first hand. He knew the other disciples and what they had seen together, but when they told him Jesus was risen he did not blindly accept. He needed to see for himself like they had seen. He would not take their “word” for it. Their “word” was what the Bible is- the disciple’s word and not “THE Word of God” which transcends anything that can fully be put into language and is not contained or limited to a book or limited in anyway, anywhere, at anytime. THE word is living not written. If Thomas did not blindly accept their word, why should anyone? And why would God fault anyone for not believing their word? He didn’t fault Thomas. He proved himself to Thomas. Even to the extent of putting his hand within his wounds. Something Jesus had no issue doing for Thomas. If Thomas did not believe, he made sure Thomas knew. Jesus can and will do the same for us all.
    What I see in the world is that more people have been turned away from Jesus by blind believers who force the Bible and a twisted version of morality and God’s love on others as a means of trying to prove their own misguided beliefs to themselves. Which is the greater offense?
    We are all saved because Jesus has already won the victory over Hell. Many simply do not want this to be true. So someday we shall all see. And then we shall all know.

  • Linda

    If we are saved only by his grace, why do you believe we are not all saved?

  • Linda


  • Linda

    Giselle, I mean this to be kind. You accuse others of being narcissistic, but you are the only person on this thread calling other people offensive names. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Being over defensive is typically caused by fear of the unknown and fear of letting go. Please do yourself a favor and take some extensive quiet time to pray and meditate and let go of what you have been taught and ask God to help you connect to what he/she can show you and you can know to be real. I sincerely will pray for you (and myself) as well.

  • Doc Thunder

    No scriptural evidence. Merely logic. God is all good. He can not do evil. Torturing people is evil. God does not torture. If there is a Hell, it is not God’s work.

  • simplymagic

    Fair enough. For the record, I don’t believe that a loving God would create what we call Hell (realm of endless torture for whoever humans are scapegoating lately). I just don’t put the blame on Satan either, because that only raises further issues.

  • Tracy

    Hmmm. The common thread I see running through the meta narrative is choice, and not God forcing Himself on everyone, however that event occurs in the mind of the universalist. As to your statement regarding choosing Hell – it would be interesting to go onto an atheist site and pose that question to them. I have known atheists who would pass on God – they would rather be in hell than choose him because the god they perceive is not the God I know. He is a monster. I wouldn’t choose that god either. But you are free to choose ( at the moment obviously) how you think about scripture from the map you have of the territory.

  • Tracy

    um.. Jesus willingly laid down his OWN life is what scripture actually says.

  • Tracy

    well said. I liked that analogy.

  • Tracy

    Sorry I am getting confused as to who the god is here? You have just stated that you would not worship the God of the bible. So… if he actually IS God – would you choose hell over bowing the knee to him? Just a interested question as i am having this conversation with an universalist on here. She states that no one would willingly choose hell, but I disagree. And based on YOUR statement, as I have heard repeatedly from atheists – you wold have to follow through and agree with me. If the God of the universe IS the same God depicted in the bible ( however misunderstood he might be) would you choose hell over having to worship Him?

  • jeffnkr

    Mark, chapter 9, Luke 19:16-31, and Revelation 20;15 all talk about the Lake of Fire. I do not wish Hell on anyone, not even the worst of the worst of us. I wish there wasn’t any such thing as Hell. I wish that somehow everyone made it to Heaven. The ones who never committed their lives to God, through the Blood of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, could inherit the earth, and not be allowed into the New Jerusalem. I do not understand the reasons for a Lake of Fire. If Satan, and the angels who followed him, could simply be annihilated, I would be satisfied with that. But God’s ways and thoughts are much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8). I would rather believe in a literal Hell, and warn others about it as a consequence of rejecting God, and be wrong, than to say there isn’t any such thing as Hell, and be wrong. Whatever God has planned, will be seen, ultimately, as the right thing to do, because when we get to Heaven, we’ll see things from God’s perspective.

  • Lark62

    Yes. The god of the bible is horrific and totally unworthy of praise.

    It established the death penalty for gathering firewood on the wrong day yet never condemned the ownership of people. It gave instructions on what price to charge when selling your daughter to a rapist, yet never condemend rape except maybe as a property crime (and then the victim was the father/owner). Nowhere, anywhere in the bible is there the remotest hint that consent matters.

    It ordered its “chosen people” to murder all the surrounding tribes, but after murdering men, women and boys, it ordered the soldiers to keep little girls as sex slaves. Imagine for just a minute, a ten year girl sees her entire family slaughtered and then is raped by her family’s murderers. How can you praise the monster that ordered that?

    It is all knowing but can’t figure out what people need in order to believe. It is all loving but forgot to tell anyone about microbes and plate tectonics. Rather it let humans believe for millenia that sickness and natural disasters were caused by sin and unapproved sex.

    I could never praise or worship anything that horrific.

    To me, the only good thing about the biblical god is that it is make believe.

  • Lark62


  • Tracy

    just read above – first one I asked said yes! He would choose hell over worshipping the god of the bible.

  • Tracy

    But what if the God of the universe isn’t like what you think he’s like? What if people have messed it up, and have portrayed a picture of him that is not accurate? What if the real God is Jesus like, and died for us all on a cross? What then? The bible does say that Jesus is the true understanding and reflection of what God is actually like? So if we look at Jesus – then at the Old Testament – we see a conflict eh? Something is wrong in how God is being portrayed? Maybe it’s because we don’t understand what’s going on clear enough to make a judgement call on it? Just a thought.

  • Tracy

    Then Paul and John must have each had a different gospel as John spoke out against the Gnostics all through his writings. From what I understand Paul never confronted John over his admonitions regarding gnosticism, so i don’t know how you can make such a direct statement.

  • Tracy

    Interesting. Just chatted to an atheist who said he would choose hell over God. There are quite a few who would say the same thing. So you think when they( atheists) are confronted with God, they will change their mind? Shame the Holy Spirit isn’t doing a better job here then. What makes you think he will do better after physical death? If N T Wright is correct in his thinking that humans are becoming dehumanised through their choices, eventually they will cease to be what it truly means to be human. They will reach a point where they cannot choose God perhaps. Seems to me the bible stresses an urgency to accept Christ now while we still are able to. Maybe as C S Lewis thinks – we reach a point where we are not able to as we have become our choices.

  • Lark62

    So, in other words, the all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe flunked “Intro to Interpersonal Communication.”

  • Wes Mahan

    Not willingly. “Spare me” he prays in the garden. But of course, the gospels all present different, conflicting details of the crucifixion and afterwards. Even so, it was the Father’s plan, que no? Let’s say he laid down his own life. Without Jesus committing suicide, there’s no salvation, right? The Father laid out what the Son had to do. Jesus had no choice.
    Let’s face it, a bloody sacrifice of a living creature to appease an angry God is very primitive, and I would NEVER again submit to a blood-thirsty deity such as that. And neither should you.

  • Which is why the phrase ‘God so loved the world…’ is key. God loves you; He likes you, He doesn’t see you as a sinner. I get so tired of these people who claim that they, me and everyone else is a ‘sinner’ – No, in Christ we are a New Creation. The old has gone, the new has come. I think the ‘sinner’ stuff was perpetrated early on to get kids to behave!

  • Tim

    You’re forgetting about Paul’s statement about only being able to see through a glass darkly now. How can you believe the words of an atheist on this, when they have clearly not met God yet? Do we sincerely believe that man’s will is stronger than God’s? Wright is totally barking up the wrong tree on that one, as brilliant as he can be in other respects. I’d suggest you re-read the New testament with fresh eyes, and recognise that for all the apparent urgency we’ve been taught to read into it, it’s not actually there so much. Jesus himself is quoted as saying that he intentionally hid the truth from people at one point, so that they would not believe and be saved. So, what’s going on there? Not all are appointed to come to know God at the same time, yet in scripture we find clear statements that at some point, all will know Him.

  • Tracy

    ok but the seeing through the glass darkly surely means we do not understand this other world we will be entering, correctly. We can make assumptions and judgements regarding the information we have, but we cannot be sure can we? Can you answer the question I think I put to you before ( or may not have) as to the point of Paul’s urgency over receiving Christ while on earth. What is the point in that if all will be saved? Christians still go through hell on earth, so it’s not to ‘rescue’ us from trials…. just like to know your thoughts on that one if you don’t mind me asking. :) Also, I understand your point about not believing atheists – but if we respect their free will, they are making a choice to reject the offer of salvation through Christ due to the fact that most of them see God differently to you and I. They are just searching for answers too I guess. But there is truth in what they say. They ARE choosing hell over love, they just can’t see it. They are blinded to the fact that this God we speak of, is in fact loving. So yes, in that regard I do listen to them.

  • Tracy

    Suicide is where you take you own life. Jesus did not kill himself. And he did in fact lay his life down. Cumon… you are not going to rock up to the cross with glee and all smiles. Of course he was scared. he was fully human as well. Wouldn’t you be asking ‘Isn’t there another way to do this?” But at the end of the day, it wasn’t about suicide or blood sacrifices – it was starting a new revolution. The Kingdom. The new creation. Never before had humans become part of God. They only knew God from the outside looking in. Now we have God on the inside. The cross is so much more than most realise. Also – God works WITHIN a culture, he doesn’t force himself on a culture. It takes time. Back in Abrahams day they were pagan. Multi gods. Much of what we read in the Old Testament, while being inspired, is a shadow. It shows us the depravity of humanity left to it’s own self. They saw God quite differently to how we see him today. They saw him as being similar to the other gods – a demanding deity who was probably pleased by blood and killing others. It took a long time for their thinking to change. What we interpret as God doing all this awful stuff… was a cultural idea of how to please him perhaps. The truth is we do not have a lot of information on the Ancient Near East cultures to know very much about how they operated. We are just recently finding new information on that issue. Ancient cosmology is a fascinating subject and John Walton has great books if you are interested.

  • Tim

    I guess don’t see as much urgency in Paul as you do. Again, I think that’s a function of what we read into his statements more so than what is actually there. I see what urgency is there this way: Why not save yourself some misery and join the party earlier rather than later?

    One can’t truly reject something they don’t understand entirely. For more on this, see Thomas Talbott’s “The Inescapable Love of God”

  • Nerdsamwich

    What sacrifice? He’s immortal and all-powerful–and he knew it at the time of the Crucifixion. That’s less of a sacrifice than me cutting my hair.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Sounds like Syndrome, the villain from The Incredibles. Except that Syndrome planned to give his powers to the masses after he’d had his fun with them.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Isn’t that morally abhorrent to you? How can you worship a being who would create such a thing? What kind of terrible person can just go along with that horrific evil? If what you say is true, then Satan is the real hero of the story.

  • Nerdsamwich

    If he’s right, it would be the duty of any moral person to oppose such a god with every fiber of their being.

  • Nerdsamwich

    If I tell my kid that I’m going to spank her for throwing a fit in the store, but I decide on the way home that I don’t want to spank her, do I have to find some stranger’s kid to spank instead? No! If I impose a consequence that I later decide is too harsh, I can rescind it with a simple act of will, and maybe an apology. Am I more powerful than your god?

  • Nerdsamwich

    You’re still not answering the question. Which of your children would you torture with fire for disobeying you? For what infractions would you torture your children with fire?

  • Nerdsamwich

    But how do you know that they are wrong who hear the Holy Spirit telling them to hate? What about the woman who heard the Voice telling her to load all of her children into the car and drive them into a lake to meet Jesus? How do we know which voices are real?

  • Tracy

    Well Tim I hope it’s true. I would love to think all are eventually saved and that the Grace of God is much wider than what most of us see. I will keep an open mind on this one for sure.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Jesus himself is a false prophet.

  • Nerdsamwich

    That’s how successful prophecy works, dontcha know.

  • Nerdsamwich

    I would take it further than Lark. Yes, I would rather burn in hell than bend knee to a monster that would create it, but let’s not stop there. The book of Genesis tells us that Elohim(Hebrew: the gods–yes, the writers of Genesis were polytheists) were afraid of humans, and what they might accomplish. If YHWH, as depicted in his execrable Book, is real, we ought to remind him why. I think that, armed with the Fruit of Knowledge, and galvanized by the spirit of cooperation that began the Tower of Babel, we could–and should, if it exists–topple the Eternal Throne itself, and depose the infamous monster seated atop it.

  • Tracy

    well according to the universalists, you are not going to be able to do that, as God is not going to allow you the freedom to choose to reject Him. You are going to heaven whether you like it or not, as when you finally meet Him, you will realise how wrong you were, and….. I am not sure of the rest of the story. But enjoy!

  • Linda

    I suppose the answer to that question can be found along side the answer to the question “When a gun is sold, how do we know whether the person buying it is mentally ill or not?”.

  • Molly Griffith
  • Lark62

    Wow. A preacher is short pants says its all okay cuz jesus.

    Tell it to the little girls your perfect god ORDERED his chosen people to rape. Tell that to the pregnant women whose wombs were sliced open with swords ON THE ORDERS OF YOUR PERFECT GOD. Tell that to the woman stoned to death for gathering firewood on the wrong day. As in, a rock was thrown at her head. Then another. Then another. Dozens or hundreds of rocks. Until her skull and her bones were broken and she slowly died in agony. For firewood. This is the punishment established by god according to the bible.

    Your god is the same yesterday, today and forever, according to your book. Either your bible is a book of lies or your god is a monster. There are no other choices.

    Read the whole thing, not just the pretty sound bites your preacher talks about.

    There christians who live good lives by paying close attention to the sound bites and ignoring the rest. In fact, I think most christians are good, kind, moral people who don’t really buy into all the things the bible says or teaches. They live lives according to the moral standards of our society and reject war crimes and barbaric punishments and sale of daughters to rapists. All the while they pretend they are living according to a certain book when in fact they are not.

    But I can no longer pretend that those parts aren’t there.

  • Molly Griffith

    I know. I, too, struggled with the violent God of the Old Testament. When I think about how far we must have fallen from Paradise, and God had to lower himself to meet us where we were. The ancient people were sacrificing their children to idols – this must have broken the Creator’s heart. He had to practically start over and then design a law that would reveal to his beloved children how wrong they were. Then, at the perfect time, he came in the flesh to offer himself as the payment for our wrongs.
    I have read the whole thing and you are right about that. We must understand the beginning, clear to the end. The whole Bible is a love story. How God gradually communicated his love through his word and then the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
    Think about it. If there are good people out there – and you’ve said that there are – how does that just happen? And why aren’t all people good? If God doesn’t exist, are we just random evolutionary pieces who live, love, think, feel, and then just die? How sad. How pointless. It would take more faith to believe that.
    I think you have been deeply hurt and you blame God. The fact that you are so hurt and so angry with God tells me that you believe in Him. You just cannot see past the hurt to believe that God loves you and He’s good.
    I promise you that He DOES love you and knows you by name. I dare you to call out to Him. What could it hurt, if He’s not there?

  • Lark62

    Thanks. I’m glad you have found a way to read the bible and keep your faith if it brings comfort to you.

    But please don’t try to project what you might feel if you left religion onto me.

    I am not hurt. I am not angry. Seriously. My journey away from christianity was calm and unemotional over a period of a few years. Over time, I realized that the bible story is silly. That’s as intense as the emotion got. “Wow. This is silly. It doesn’t actually make sense.” No anger. No sorrow. It’s just a myth no different from any other myth.

    Personally I find life awesome and joyous. The universe is amazing. Evolution is fascinating. Realization that this life is it makes it that much more precious. There is nothing pointless about my life.

  • c’est moi

    any discussion of hell or heaven, for that matter, presumes the existence of a soul … a part of you without form or mass that contains the essence of your identity and has the property of eternal existence

    shouldn’t any sincere questioning begin with what constitutes the basis of your belief in its existence?

  • Nerdsamwich

    Sure, sure, but who gets to be the judge of whose direct religious experience is authentic or not? Devout Hindus have visions of Krishna, Bahai’i hear the voice of Baha’ullah, and Christians see YHWH and Jesus. Which ones are real? Are any?

  • Nerdsamwich

    If there’s no eternal hell, there’s considerably less problem, isn’t there? There is, however, still the problem of Earthly evil to contend with. An all-knowing, all-powerful being would have to have foreseen the world this would become, yet he chose to make it this way–on purpose–anyway. As a Jewish prisoner once wrote on a wall in Dachau, if there is a God, he will have to beg my forgiveness.

  • Investigator

    I can’t think of any evangelicals who DON’T believe in hell…it is so clearly taught in scripture am unsure as to how any could read it and deny it.

    Also, I am one who came to Christ through fear of hell. I don’t think I’m unique.

  • Investigator

    Very well said.

  • Investigator

    Rev. 20:10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
    v. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    Read the description in Rev. 14:9-11 or Rev. 19:20

    What is the confusion?

    If one takes scripture seriously, then believe what it says.

  • Investigator

    Jesus gave his life for you to prepare a home for you in heaven…you’re a free agent and able to choose your eternal destination; choose wisely.

  • Investigator

    How is it not supported by scripture? Just what do all these scriptures mean that speak of eternal punishment…night and day? What are these core principles of Biblical interpretation that a simple reading of scripture violates?
    These are not meant to be sarcastic questions, I’m serious.

  • Investigator

    No, I would never send my son to hell. But according to scripture, hell is very real and it is eternal.

  • Investigator

    You are right on and speaking truth, but don’t get upset with those who take a different view. We are called to speak the truth in love, let the Lord do the rest.

  • Investigator

    “He has no use for Hell.”

    Then why does he teach on it so much? What do all those scriptures on the lake of fire mean? If you can spiritualize hell away, why not spiritualize heaven away?

  • Investigator

    But that’s not what the owners manual says.

  • Nerdsamwich

    If hell exists, then its creator is infinitely evil. This is simple moral calculus, regardless of any threats of negative outcome. In fact, those threats militate against judgement in favor of the hypothetical creator; if he were a good guy, he wouldn’t threaten, and threats would be unnecessary anyway. Jesus was an immortal, omnipotent superbeing(according to the story, anyway); he can’t be harmed, and so cannot sacrifice. Three days out of a limiting human body would be a vacation, not a torment. I give up more cutting my hair.

    TL;DR: Your thinly-veiled threat only proves my point.

  • Investigator

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

    1 Cor. 1:18,19

  • Investigator

    “Your thinly-veiled threat only proves my point.”

    If I tell you not to jump off a high building because its going to hurt, that is not a threat, its a warning. Not a perfect analogy but I hope you understand the point.

    So, since hell does exist, where else are you going to go for salvation? To whom shall you turn if you’ve rejected the author of life?

  • Wes Mahan

    Why did God let a sub-standard plan go on for thousands of years before he said, “hey, this isn’t working so well, I’m going to send Jesus and try something new”.

    If God is Unchangeable and Immutable, and Never a Shadow of Turning, then why did He change his mind and institute a “better” plan? In fact, why not the best plan from the beginning? Why was the Old Testament not working so well? Why waste so much time before revealing his Version 2.0?

    Your theology (and I believed it for 46 years after getting a Bachelor of Theology from a well-known Bible College and being a missionary for several years) is riddled with inconsistencies, contradictions, and irrational positions. It’s time you faced it and lived in a rational world.

  • Tracy

    In the beginning, God created a temple on earth ( Eden) and placed 2 people it to be his representatives. They were to rule and subdue and worship their creator. Nothings changed. That has always been the plan. Free will humans are hard to train up obviously :) Jesus was ALWAYS part of that plan. In fact all thought the Old Testament we see ‘shadows’ and its not until Christ appears that those shadows make sense. Jesus did what the Israelites failed to do. Just because God is unchangable and Immutable, doesn’t mean God cannot change His mind. He does it throughout the Old Testament all the time. What the Old Testament does give us is history. It tells us how the world began, and how God worked with individuals and nations to prepare them by teaching them about ( kings, priests, prophets) all shadows again of Christ….. and the Old Testament points to a time when Messiah would come. The Jews knew this right from Adam …..who was told of a Messiah. I don’t know who you studied under… but people like Boyd and N T Wright are fantastic at explaining all this. Far from being inconsistent and irrational, when explained in context and within ancient cosmology and Ancient Near East stories, it all starts to make sense and it’s really exciting how God has brought it all together. Studying under a Rabbi brings 1st C culture into the equation as well, and explains parts we fail to grasp.

  • Benji

    Well, for the sake of brevity perhaps a quick google search under Pinnock or Fudge and the word “hell” might be a good place to start. This is a lengthy discussion not well-suited for a comment forum.

    Suffice to say, most of the NT language regarding the future state of the wicked is lifted straight from passages in the OT (the worm that dieth not, unquenchable fire, weeing and gnashing of teeth etc…) The context of those OT verses is very clearly total extermination and not some horror movie premise featuring supernatural bodies burning endlessly in conscious torment.

    The NT judgement images convey the identical payload as the OT verses they borrow from. I.E. Darkness, blotting out, banishment, and cessation of consciousness, all express the desperate finality of the wicked.

    Many of these OT passages speak of cities of the enemy burning or smoldering forever with a fire that cannot be extinguished. Archaeologically-speaking we know today where these cities once resided, and they are clearly NOT still burning. So what do these verses speak of? They speak of consumption and a total leveling– a complete silencing and dismantling of their society and culture, not some literal blaze in which the occupants have stood around on fire for thousands of years. Fire in the OT represents a purging judgement– total razing. It never represents torture.

    Torture as a punishment for crimes is something sinful men have invented. It is a symptom of sadism and sociopathy. Eternal torture, as a practice for exacting judgment, does not have any of the attributes of a holy God… it sounds exactly like the imagination and invention of MAN

  • Benji

    I’m sorry you arrived where you are through fear. That’s a shame.

    Re: Evangelicals– what I meant was there’s a lot of lip service to the doctrine, but I think practically speaking most do not truly believe the teaching. It is rarely taught on systematically from the pulpit and it is handled and delivered rather icily (if mentioned at all) even in proselytizing. Frankly, groups like the Westboro Baptists have followed the traditional view to its logical conclusion and seem to be one of the few that live their lives like hell (as a place of eternal torture) is a real place.

  • Wes Mahan

    Your explanation is tortured and convoluted, full of Christian-ese, and means absolutely nothing in the real world, and outside of your cultural bubble. It’s sad that you fail to see how utterly ridiculous theologians sound as they attempt to explain your/their belief system. (Of course, at one point in my previous life I would have and could have written your above paragraph. Now I just laugh at how absurd it all sounds.)

  • Linda

    I don’t see any reason that they can’t all be real. God (source) with many faces and many expressions. Authentic experience is individual and found (or not) in individual ways. The laws of society should keep those expressions from infringing on anyone else.

  • Tracy

    That’s fair enough. Everyone’s journey is different. Can I ask you one last question. Did you ever experience God? I don’t mean just learn all the right sayings and doings, but did you actually experience Him? See that’s the one thing at the end of the day that helps to anchor my faith. I have experienced not only the demonic before becoming a Christian, but God’s breaking through into the physical realms in a way I can’t just brush off and say… hmmm.. that was explainable. So I was just wondering if you have had any experiences like that, and how if you have, do you now dismiss them?

  • Wes Mahan

    One morning, in April 1971, while in my 3rd year of Bible College, I had an experience that I called the “filling of the Holy Spirit”. I literally fell in love with my Lord Jesus. I lost my appetite for days. I woke up at 4am every morning and prayed and worshipped, sometimes beyond speech, for 3 hours. Tears of joy were not unusual. I was filled with awe of his unspeakable splendor. Of course, as with romantic love, that fades with time.

    When I stopped believing in God, 40 years later, it was NOT because I was mad at God, or had a bad experience in the church. I had spent 7 years as a missionary in Europe, telling the Good News! To reverse the famous words of CS Lewis, I was Heaven’s most reluctant de-convert. I didn’t want to stop believing, to leave my church family.

    But I had to, as the cognitive dissonance had become too much. None of it made any sense: hell, a “loving” Father God who will condemn the majority of earth’s humans to eternal torment for their failure to believe in him and his theology (we’re sinful, Jesus died for us, accept his sacrifice, your sins are then forgiven). Condemned to Hell for incorrect thinking and allegiance. And that was just the beginning of things that made no sense, especially in the light of science.

    (How do I explain my Holy Spirit experience? Meh. ALL religions have similar ecstatic experiences, miracles, etc. Christianity is NOT unique in this respect. Please read scientific research into this subject: it can all be explained in terms of brain neurology and chemistry, AND can be duplicated in laboratory conditions, no Holy Spirit needed.)

  • Tracy

    I think by now you will see that there are a lot of Christians re thinking Hell, and what it might indeed be. I am aware of experiences outside Christianity, indeed, I have experienced it as well – but it was on a totally different level to what I have experienced with Christ. AND it was frightening to be honest. I would say ( IMHO) that they were experiences with the spiritual realms that were definitely not from God. And yes, the brain is a powerful thing, but we do at some point have to decided where we stand on all of this. Science is only as good as far as it goes. It can only observe what is happening. It has trouble at times explaining the why. Energy is one example. However, in good faith point me to the research you have read on this, and I will take a look.

  • Nerdsamwich

    But in the OT, the true, authentic voice of the divine orders people to do all sorts of horrible things. How can you be sure that he’s NOT talking to all those psychos who claim to hear him. Maybe he just really enjoys mayhem and carnage. It would explain Africa.

  • Linda

    I don’t believe God enjoys carnage. I believe a lot of people do. People believe in God according to what is in their own hearts and disposition. People believe in Hell because they are fearful, they believe they are born evil, or want to see others who have offended them or they believe are not as good as them, or who have committed a crime to have to suffer for who they are or what they have done. I personally don’t believe the words and actions attributed to God in the OT are authentic in any literal sense nor do I believe the words and actions are attributed to Jesus in the New Testament are authentiic. Most books are written in parables and are not meant to be taken literally. They are often the same myths and stories found in many cultures and passed down for generations through various religious beliefs. They are written by men. They are not without error. They are theory and prose describing what early uncivilized man supposed God to be. The commonality in our myths should be an inspiration for peace and working together for the common good.
    Taking the writing literally, believing God chooses one person over another, killing & going to war- I don’t believe God has ever directed man to do any of this anymore than I believe God would direct someone to harm their child or any other person.

  • Nerdsamwich

    I would rather burn in hell than bend knee to a being sick enough to create it. If you’re right, I suspect I’ll be in the best of company.

  • Wes Mahan

    OK, you’re saying (in effect) these experiences within Christianity are valid and from God, but outside Christianity they’re from the devil (you’re too sophisticated to use the word so you say “spiritual realms not from God”). Sorry, that’s a just a desperate attempt to paint Christianity as unique, which is what Christians do and what I did when I was a Christian. I really did believe it. And by extension you imply that my “filling with the HS” was from the devil. This is a fruitless conversation: you are not able to verify any claims with evidence, it’s all just opinion and beliefs. Read William James “Varieties of Religious Experience” and google “ecstatic religious experiences and brain neurology”: scientists have studied this field extensively. But I don’t believe you’re an honest searcher for information, except for information that confirms your beliefs, “confirmation bias”. If you are completely objective, you can easily research it yourself without asking me to google it for you. I sense you are very intelligent, and my suggestion is that you take the fetters off your curiosity and let it roam around outside the faith bubble. Above all, try to maintain a neutral objectivity, but I feel that is a futile request on my part. All the best!

  • Tracy

    Any discussion to be had on here comes with assumptions and already established thoughts. From where I was 5 years ago, I do not now fit into the mould of the conservative christian. I was not implying your experience did not come from the HS, only that some that peoples experiences do not. I am an honest searcher of truth. Problem is, we all experience that differently. But you are right on one thing. I cannot deny God, as 5 years ago I was almost ready to toss it all in, and cried out to Him in desperation, and He answered. It completely turned my faith on it’s head. But that is my journey. I wish you well too, and will look up your information. I only asked, for the fact you may have recommended a particular person as I am in the habit of doing. :) Shalom.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Then why pay even lip service to the Book? You already don’t worship the god it depicts; why not finish the step and declare yourself free of the rest of the baggage that comes with the name “YHWH”?

  • joe

    Not all humans are God’s children. Creation yes, but not children. I live and serve in Rwanda. Most people I know, have either killed themselves, or have had all or a large portion of their family killed in the past twenty years. Including women and children. Issues till now are solved by the stealth use of witchcraft. How can we not believe in God’s wrath?

  • joe

    Before that I lived in the inner city, I’m thinking you need to have a really small slice of the human experience, a level of education, prosperity and decency that is itself often produced by a history of Christianity, along with a early departure from anything like biblical teaching, with a wide range of unbiblical views, starting with the nature of God, man, and sin to get to the point where we are together with this question you posed about torturing our own children.

  • Linda

    Because for me that would be equivalent to throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  • Nerdsamwich

    What baby? There’s no good advice in there that can’t be had, more clearly presented, somewhere else.

  • Investigator

    “…what I meant was there’s a lot of lip service to the doctrine…”

    Then you need to attend services some where else. Even if what you say is true, it is irrelevant because reality is real regardless of the numbers who subscribe to it.
    According to scripture, hell is real and though I know little about the Westboro Baptists other than what has been in the news. I believe in a literal hell as does most Christians I know. I’m not sure how you feel we should act different as a result of this knowledge vis a vis Christians who have lost their faith other than having a greater desire to see the lost saved…which we apparently do.

  • Investigator

    Only if you fancy the company of pedophiles, Hitlers, Stalins, Mao Tse Tungs, and probably Obama (sorry, that was a bad joke).

  • Investigator

    As time allows, I’ll look into it. However, being tormented forever and ever is not consistent with total extermination. How are we being tormented?

  • Investigator

    I think I’ll take your advice…and listen to Giselle whose doctrine comports with scripture.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Hitler was a Roman Catholic in good standing. If he confessed and then got someone else to fire the bullet, he’s in Purgatory right now, on his way to heaven. You forget those luminaries who would be keeping me company, however: Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Socrates, Diogenes, Neitsche, Robert Ingersoll, Bruno, Ovid, Homer, Virgil, Sitting Bull, Chief Seattle…really, almost anyone worth talking to.

  • Benji

    Hell is an immoral doctrine that desecrates the true nature of god by painting him as a deity who sentences finite beings to an eternity of conscious TORTURE. Let that sink in for a moment. Conscious torture. For all eternity. For crimes committed while in a finite human body.

    Humans instinctively know that such behavior is MONSTROUS and an indication of some pathological sadism. Have you watched the ISIS videos of people being burned alive? (I dissuade all people from watching the horrors of other people suffering, but I have wondered if such viewing might help evangelicals better come to grips with their own doctrine.) The god of the traditional hell does infinitely worse to people than ISIS, because eventually all of their victims expired from the flames. In the doctrine of hell they continue to burn and scream in horrific agony for millions upon millions of years, world without end. I don’t understand how believing in a God who employs such judgments is some kind of virtue.

    The concept of hell comes from ancient Greek thought and was fine-tuned in medieval Christianity during a very dark time in the world’s history. Its source is NOT ancient Judaism or the Old testament or the teachings of Christ. The doctrine is born out of the Greek idea that the soul is naturally immortal. Pagan logic flows from this thought, that if the soul cannot be destroyed it must find its future in one of two places– paradise or torment. The Bible does not teach that the soul is innately immortal. Neither does it teach anywhere that the wicked get to live forever, albeit it in an inferno. These are not explicitly Christian beliefs.

    The Bible teaches that God ALONE has immortality (I Tim 6:16) and that the wages of sin is DEATH (a theme pounded over and over hundreds of times in the OT and NT) and that immortality and the resurrection from the dead is a gift shared ONLY with the elect of God. The privilege to “live forever” is something only the recipients of Grace enjoy.

  • Giselle, I deny that hell, that is hades or sheol is eternal as used in Scripture. I think a careful comparison of scripture with scripture will reveal to you that it is the state of all the dead due to the Adamic curse — the dead who are awaiting the resurrection of all, both the just and the unjust. (See Acts 24:15) What are Christians saved from? Adamic, hereditary sin. What are non-Christians saved from? Adamic, hereditary sin. Jesus died as a ransom or corresponding price for ALL — to be testified in due time. Our due time is now. We heard the call of Christ and became his disciples. How are we saved? In a very special way. (God is the savior of all men, specially those who believe [now]) We receive the opportunity of being kings and priests, and reigning with Christ in the earth. We will judge men, we will judge angels. We will shepherd the nations with a staff of iron. And we will do all of that in the heavenlies, as spiritual sons of God, immortal and incorruptible. Surely you have read these promises to Christians throughout the epistles. The rest of the world, on the other hand, will be saved from the Adamic curse as well, but without that “special” gift of a change to spiritual conditions. Theirs will be a resurrection upon the earth — which will be restored, not destroyed. They, like us were children of wrath… born during the era of the wrath or judicial judgment of God against the sinful human race. But God loves all of the human race, and sent his son that whosoever believes on him… either in this age or in the Millennium, will be saved by his love. He didn’t send Jesus to condemn the world (John 3:17) and tell them they were going to hell unless they responded RIGHT NOW, or else as Benji said be eternally punished for their 20 or 40 or 60 or 80 years of being a fallen citizen of a fallen world. No, he came so that the world through him might be SAVED. Saved from death. Saved from sin and moral confusion. Saved from alienation from God. Saved from separation from their loved ones and angst about their place in the world. No one was saved from eternal fiery hell because it was NEVER a reality and was NEVER a threat given to the human race. Have you ever read, really read, Romans 1? It clearly states that the wrath of God has already been revealed among the sons of men. The wrath of God is not some maw of fire that is waiting to swallow us up. The wrath of God is the Adamic curse, and it has been revealed … everyone sees it. They see that they are dying. They see their loved ones get sick, and their children get run over or murdered. They feel loneliness, and they feel the loss of fellowship with God that Adam experienced and passed on to us. But the wrath of God is everywhere promised to come to an end. “His wrath is but for a moment.” Weeping endures for a night, but Joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5 The Ransomed of the Lord — EVERYONE — return, and come to Zion (the government of God which true and faithful Christians of every denomination will comprise) with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. They will obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. Read Psalm 96. The judgment day is a happy day… because even though it will be uncomfortable for a mass murderer to meet all his victims and be required to apologize to them and serve them…. and even though it will be uncomfortable for preachers who everyone thought were great spiritual leaders to come back and admit they secretly were cheating on their wife or stealing from the church, the path of humility will lead to true redemption and happiness. It will be a day of darkness and clouds, but at evening time (the end of that thousand year day) it will be Light.

  • Jeff, I am glad you are only clinging to a belief in a fiery hell out of respect for the Bible’s authority and your desire to be obedient. May I suggest some thoughts about the verses you mention? Mark 9:30-50 is the record of conversations between Jesus and his disciples. I believe he is stating that for disciples who know the Lord and have entered into relationship with him, the stakes of obedience are high. He is speaking to Jews who live in and near Jerusalem and have a garbage heap called Gehenna … where literal fires are burning and where criminal carcasses are destroyed by fire rather than decent burial. He tells his disciples that if they find that they are the seeing themselves stumbling into sin because of their eye or hand (lust of the eye or pride of life as John put it in his first epistle) they should figuratively speaking cut off their hand or eye. Not a literal statement to be sure, but a warning to his followers that they need to be very serious about striving against sinful habits of behavior. I believe that Gehenna is used in the Gospels in the same way that the “lake of fire” is used in Revelation. How does Jesus define Gehenna in the Gospels? In Matthew 10:28 Jesus says if we have any fear, it should be of God who can “destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Note that he does not say “preserve soul and body in Gehenna”. He says “destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” That’s what Gehenna is: a descriptive term that refers to annihilation. The soul of an incorrigible sinner is destroyed … it is not kept alive in anguish forever as the Greek philosophers imagined. The body, of course, is destroyed in annihilation too. Jesus’ soul died, not in Gehenna, but in hades … simple oblivion or death from which the resurrection will ensue. But the soul of those judged to be sinners … who have known God and chose to turn against him…. those souls will be destroyed. Or in the language of Revelation 20:14, they will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Is this conscious suffering? I think the text makes it clear what is meant by the descriptive language when it says plainly, ” — this is the second death.” Note what is thrown there: death and hades. What things are described as going into the second death at the end of the millennium? The devil and his angels … who after all were intelligent beings who knew God and yet turned against him. Also, “death” and “hades.” I would argue that death is the Adamic curse upon the human race that was temporarily inflicted after disobedience, so that God would only need to redeem one man who was the progenitor of everyone else. That’s the ransom or corresponding price that Jesus gave when he laid down his human life at Calvary. Romans 5 I think makes this crystal clear.

    The Adamic curse of death upon all people is cast into the lake of fire … annihilated. That means never again will someone die because of another man’s sin. Isn’t that what God promised in Jeremiah 31?

    And Hades will also be cast into the Lake of Fire at the end of the Millennium. Hades is the condition of being dead. To annihilate the condition of death that billions of people have been claimed by, God will need to fulfill his many promises to resurrect all the dead who have ever lived. That’s the only way to annihilate Hades. And that is exactly what Revelation 21, Zephaniah 3:8,9, John 5, Isaiah 25, and many other passages say will happen.

    The Luke passage does not refer to second death at all, but simply the loss of privileges, and sense of missed opportunity, that many true Christians will feel when they realize their disappointment at having been unfaithful. They will still enter eternal life. Heaven is for all true Christians, and it will involve for them a change of nature to the spirit realm… while the vast majority of the human race will return to the earth in the Judgement day to learn from their mistakes and eventually live forever. True Christians have been trained for the great work of being mediators — priests– to help them learn the ways of God so that the entire family of God in Heaven and on Earth can find their one head in Christ. Ephesians 1:10

    I’ll be happy to discuss this with you further, Jeff, my brother.

  • I agree with Giselle on this one. Jesus suffered greatly and died in a very painful way. That was a huge sacrifice, and what may have been even greater was the separation he felt from his God while he was on the cross. And the ignominy of dying as a blasphemer against God.

    But here’s the thing. What Jesus sacrificed was the “body that God prepared for him.” …. the human body that he received when he set aside the glory he had with the Father before the world was (as Jesus put it in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 17) and became one of the lowest of God’s intelligent creation, a human being. He continued to sacrifice by setting aside his own will, putting up with the arrogance and ignorance that surrounded him, and was touched with a feeling of human infirmities. He poured out his soul unto death. And when he died, he died as a man. But Peter says that Jesus was “put to death flesh, and made alive as a Spirit.” He was different upon his resurrection… materializing first one body and then another, sometimes looking like his old human self and sometimes being nondescript as a gardener or some guy on the way to Emmaus. Appearing suddenly behind closed doors and then vanishing out of their sight. And finally, after 40 days, ascending to heaven… clearly not something a normal human being could do. So I would argue that yes he became immortal … but not until his resurrection. It was then, and only then, that all power was given him in heaven and on earth. And he has been the Lord in the heavens since that time.

    Here’s where I might have to disagree with Giselle again: The thing that Jesus sacrificed was human, and went all the way to death of Jesus, body and soul as described in several scriptures including Acts 2:27 and Psalm 16:10. This was the “corresponding price” that Jesus’ death provided. (1 Timothy 2:6) Only a man could die as a ransom for Adam … but because we all came from Adam via heredity, Jesus’ sacrifice or ransom provided exactly that for the entire world through the process of heredity: redemption from our inherited sin. That’s the argument of Romans 5:17ff. And so it was a finite payment for a finite sin.

    Most evangelicals today have adopted the radically different idea of redemption that first appeared when Augustine of Hippo introduced his ideas in The City of God: “God has infinite greatness. Therefore, an infinite punishment is fitting for a sin that is
    committed against God.” He taught that Jesus had to be a “God-man” –emphasis on the God part — so that every infinite sin could be absorbed by an infinite being, because God has infinite anger ready to focus on it. I do not see such an idea in the Bible. What I see is Romans 5, where it says one single act of disobedience caused the Adamic curse. And one single act of righteous by Jesus brought the substitution or ransom or corresponding price (anti-lutron in Greek which offset that original sin. That’s why Jesus had to be a man … to offset the person and sin of Adam. And that sacrifice was total. The result will be the same thing Christians experience when they lay down their lives… a “new creature” … spiritual in nature. That is what started growing in Jesus at Jordan and died along with Jesus’ flesh on the cross…. and that is what was resurrected on the third day… and will have the power to bring the redemption Jesus purchased into reality for the entire human race. The resurrected Jesus is indeed Divine and all-powerful. And if Peter had it right, that is the same amazing transformation that is promised to Christians in the future, too, when they are resurrected. 2 Peter 1:4

  • Linda

    Well I certainly do appreciate the way you think! We should always question. Without it there is no impetus for growth. Many people have been taught not to question or they don’t question because they are ruled by fear. Our conversation has motivated me to ask myself a question I needed to sit with awhile to understand the why of what I believe. So please accept this as a sincere compliment and thank you.

    In Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Shamanism, Native American Spirituality, etc- all the ancient wisdom teachings I have studied- the elements of the knowledge or tradition that I perceive as being projections of the writer’s own self or the projection of an early culture of ancestors looking for an evolution of higher life or as a means of controlling that ancient society- this is the bath water. What’s left is the baby. I use my mind and my heart and what I call divine connection to separate the two. These are the tools I have to determine how I can most honestly express love and my most authentic self.

    I keep all these sources of wisdom I have studied on my bookcase shelf within my reach for reference regarding the history of my journey. I often talk about the bath water when having conversations with someone who is soaking in it. I don’t deny or ignore its existence and I try not to be angry about it ( this is challenging at times) because it is a medium (a historical spiritual stew that many would starve without) through which we can evolve to higher truth if and when we are ready to put aside fear and pull our pruney bodies out of the bath.

    I don’t keep the baby on the shelf ( on most days anyway). The baby lives in my mind, in my arms, and next to my heart where babies belong.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Good answer.

  • Nerdsamwich

    That’s still terrible. If I beat my child instead of murdering my neighbor, I’m not being magnanimous, I’m being a psychopath.


    • Hell has multiple levels – Deut. 32:22; Ps. 86:13; Jonah 2:2
    • Hell contains sorrows – II Sam. 22:6; Ps. 18:5; Ps. 116:3
    • Hell is deep/has depths – Job 11:7; Prov. 9:18
    • Hell is not hidden before God – Job 26:6; Prov. 15:11
    • The wicked are directed toward Hell – Ps. 9:17
    • Hell contains souls – Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:27; Acts 2:31
    • Hell is beneath the surface of the earth – Ps. 55:15; Prov. 15:24; Isa. 5:14; Isa. 14:9, Eze. 32:27; Amos 9:2; Matt. 11:23; Luke 10:15; II Peter 2:4

    • Hell contains pains – Ps. 116:3
    • Hell contains trouble – Ps. 116:3
    • Entering Hell is a sovereign choice – Psalm 139:7
    • An adulteress/foolish woman can lead one into Hell – Prov. 5:5; Prov. 7:27; Prov. 9:18
    • Hell contains chambers – Prov. 7:27
    • Correcting a child will keep him/her from Hell – Prov. 23:14
    • Hell is never full – Proverbs 27:20

    • Hell enlarges itself – Isa. 5:14; Hab. 2:5
    • Hell moves to meet one upon their arrival – Isa. 14:9
    • There is weakness in Hell – Isa. 14:9
    • Satan is condemned to Hell – Isa. 14:9
    • Covenants/agreements can be made with Hell – Isa. 28:15; Isa. 28:18
    • Hell is in a state of debasement – Isa. 57:9
    • Hell contains fire – Matt. 5:22; Matt. 18:9; Mark 9:47; Luke 16:24; James 3:6

    • One’s whole body is cast into Hell – Matt. 5:29-30; Matt. 18:8-9; Mark 9:43;45;47
    • One’s body and soul is destroyed in Hell – Matt. 10:28
    • Hell has gates – Matt. 16:18
    • Hell’s fire is unquenchable – Matt. 18:8; Matt. 25:41; Mark 9:43-46; Mark 9:48
    • One can be made a deeper convert toward Hell – Matt. 23:15
    • Hell is inescapable – Matt. 23:33; Luke 16:26
    • Hell was created for Satan and his angels – Matt. 25:41

    • Hell is a place of everlasting punishment – Matt. 25:46
    • One’s body contains everlasting worms in Hell – Mark 9:44; Mark 9:46; Mark 9:48
    • God has the power to cast one into Hell – Luke 12:5
    • Hell is a place where one is in torments – Luke 16:23-25; Luke 16:28
    • One is able to see, and have cognizant awareness in Hell – Luke 16:23
    • One is able to speak in Hell – Luke 16:23; Luke 16:27; Luke 16:28; Luke 16:30
    • Even if one returned from the dead, a sinner will not be persuaded to repent – Luke 16:31

    • Jesus Christ was temporarily in Hell – Acts 2:31; Rev. 1:15
    • Hell contains angels that sinned, whom are chained and awaiting judgment – II Peter 2:4
    • Jesus Christ possesses the “keys” of Hell and death – Rev. 1:18
    • Hell follows behind “Death” – Rev. 6:8
    • Satan will be bound 1000 years in Hell, in the ‘bottomless pit’ – Rev. 20:2-3; Rev. 20:7
    • Hell will relinquish its occupants during the great white throne judgment – Rev. 20:13
    • Hell, itself, will be cast into the Lake of Fire; the “second death” – Rev. 20:14

    All Scriptural references to hell: http://www.biblewordstudy.org/hell.html

  • Nerdsamwich

    And? Does hopelessness make a cause any less just? Besides, Elohim said amongst themselves on two occasions in Genesis that they feared what mankind might do if they harnessed the power of knowledge and worked together. And hell, that was thousands of years ago. What was awe-inspiring to Bronze-Age shepherds might be merely slightly frightening–or even comical–to us.

  • Nerdsamwich

    For one, my nation is beset by theocrats who want to force me to live by that horrible book, and want to teach my daughter that it contains useful, true scientific information. For another, it poisons the morals of most of my neighbors, making them think harmless, healthy sexuality is evil, while vicarious punishment is good. Why aren’t you angry that so much of the country takes moral advice from a book that lists rape as a property crime?
    The point I was making is hypothetical. You’ll recall that I said that IF YHWH exists, it would be a moral imperative to destroy him–which actually shouldn’t be too hard: all we need is a few iron chariots, a sacrifice to Chemosh, or even just an old man challenging him to a wrestling match.

    P.S.: You made a minor error in your second paragraph: the Hebrew suffix -im is plural; Elohim means “the gods”. It’s because Genesis was mostly plagiarized from the Sumerians.

  • Bones


    The Ancient Jews didn’t believe in Hell. They believed in Hades.

    So I don’t know how you can claim to use the Old Testament for any description of it.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Iron chariots: Judges 1:19 “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.”

    Chemosh: 2 Kings 3 It’s a little long to reproduce here in its entirety; but the story goes that the king of Moab sacrificed his son to Chemosh, god of Moab, and the invading Israelites were driven away. Incidentally, this also makes Elisha a false prophet.

    Wrestling match: Genesis 32:22-32 Jacob spends all night wrestling with God, who cheats and still loses.

    That help?

  • Nerdsamwich

    However you feel like rationalizing it, your own book depicts YHWH being defeated on various occasions: by other gods, and by men. That was several thousand years ago. We’ve come a long way since then; my iron chariot, I daresay, puts those of the Jebusites to shame. If the god of Abraham were a real entity, and actually did the things that the OT claims he did, he would be a blight on the universe, and any moral person would have little recourse but to oppose him at all costs. I’m pretty sure, moreover, that it would not be a hopeless cause. Elohim as a whole were afraid of us in early Genesis. YHWH wasn’t even the biggest dog in that pack. I think that we could–hypothetically–take him.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Salvation from what? A horror imposed entirely by the will of the one you worship, the one you claim loves you! If BP were to clean up their mess in the Gulf, would you praise and glorify them for it, or would you say, “About damn time”? Would you hold your god to a lower standard than a petty, despicable, soulless corporation?

    As for my command of Scripture, you admitted that you were unfamiliar with Chemosh or the Jebusites, then offered a strange rationalization around a plain reading of Jacob. Are you sure that it’s MY claims that don’t have the support?

    I’ll toss you another fun bit of Scripture: Genesis 11:5-7. Read between the lines, and see if you can figure out what I’m getting at.

    PS: The original doesn’t say “lord”. It says “Elohim”, which means “the gods”, or more appropriately, the divine council.

  • John_33

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. First, Elohim does not always mean “gods.” It depends on whether the verb is singular or not among other things. Even Wikipedia has this very basic information.

    As for your claim about iron chariots, no, God was not defeated by them. See Exodus 23:29-30:

    “I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.” ~ Exodus 23:29-30

    God was not going to eradicate all of the Canaanites quickly. Instead, He was going to do it little by little. Because this was a long-term mission, God warned Israel not to let their children marry the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 7:1-11. Why? Because it was going to take place over years until the children of Israel could actually take care of the land.

    You don’t need to read much further from Judges 1:19. In Judges 1:28, God made Israel strong enough to remove the Canaanites, but they refused to do what God told them to do and merely put them under tribute. That’s why God condemned Israel in Judges 2:1-3 for not eradicating the Canaanites. See how easy that was?

    As for 2 Kings 3, I have no clue what you’re talking about. The Moabite king’s sacrifice didn’t stop Israel. The Israelite soldiers did everything that they were supposed to do according to the prophecy (see 2 Kings 3:14-19 and the fulfillment in verse 25). The sacrifice of the king’s son only demonstrated how badly Moab lost.

    As for Jacob wrestling, it was a special representation of him wrestling to receive a blessing.

    As always, those anti-Christian sites never get it right since they don’t take the time to read what the Bible actually says.

  • Bones

    No they dont harmonise without some form of mental gymnastics. The Jews didnt belive in hell but Sheol – the grave.

    Those verses are fancy wishful thinking and taken out of context.

  • Bones

    You mean the Jews who wrote the Old Testament. You dont care what they believed. They believed in Sheol where everyone goes. I dont care what a linked document says.

  • Bones

    Judges 1:19the Lord was with Judah, and they took possession of the hill country; but they could not [l]drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots.

  • John_33

    Yes, I already addressed it with the other verses.

  • Bones

    It sounds to me you are being dishonest and taking verses out of context to support your ideas. The ancient Jews believed in Sheol and thats a fact.

  • Nerdsamwich

    So, the king of Moab sacrificing his son just happened to coincide with “a great fury” going out against the army of Israel, which drove them forth from the land of Moab, even allowing the Moabites to capture several Hebrew cities? After YHWH, through his prophet Elisha, had promised that Israel would overthrow Moab that day? You’re telling me that that does not constitute a defeat? Pray tell, what does?

  • Nerdsamwich

    My daughter will know that poison for what it is, thanks.

  • John_33

    The problem is not with Elijah’s prophecy; it’s with how you read the chapter.

    And they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees: only in Kir-haraseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it. And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not. Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.

    The king of Moab miserably lost. He was so desperate that he offered his favored son – his successor to the throne – as a sacrifice to his god, but it didn’t do anything to change the situation. So there was great indignation against Israel – presumably because their king sacrificed the next in command – but the Moabites couldn’t do anything about it since they were defeated. So what happened next? The Israelites left because they did everything that they were supposed to do according to Elijah’s prophecy (again, see verse 25). I don’t know where you got the idea that the Moabites managed to capture several Hebrew cities since it doesn’t exist in the text.

  • Nerdsamwich

    So do I. I wasted years on religion.

  • Bones

    Sheol: An Underground Abyss

    The subject of death is treated inconsistently in the Bible, though most often it suggests that physical death is the end of life. This is the case with such central figures as Abraham, Moses, and Miriam.

    There are, however, several biblical references to a place calledSheol (cf. Numbers 30, 33). It is described as a region “dark and deep,” “the Pit,” and “the Land of Forgetfulness,” where human beings descend after death. The suggestion is that in the netherworld of Sheol, the deceased, although cut off from God and humankind, live on in some shadowy state of existence.

    While this vision of Sheol is rather bleak (setting precedents for later Jewish and Christian ideas of an underground hell) there is generally no concept of judgment or reward and punishment attached to it. In fact, the more pessimistic books of the Bible, such as Ecclesiastes and Job, insist that all of the dead go down to Sheol, whether good or evil, rich or poor, slave or free man (Job 3:11-19).


  • Nerdsamwich

    Here’s an exhaustive commentary on the text itself: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ellicott/2_kings/3.htm

    And here’s a discussion which includes some historical corroboration from the Mesha Stele: http://armstrongdelusion.com/2011/04/01/wrath-of-chemosh-too-much-for-yahweh-area-deity-says/

    I resent your implication that I don’t do my research, but instead only glance at “anti-Christian” web sites and roll on, half-informed. What I do do is to start with a plain reading of the text, with none of the bend-over-backwards rationalizations that need to be employed to see some good in YHWH.

  • Nerdsamwich

    I wanted so badly to have the certainty and serenity I saw others in church. I could just never stop thinking long enough to get it.

  • John_33

    The commentary is simply someone’s opinion on the text. This one is wrong (nowhere does the Bible accept that the “gods” are real with their own power — it only states that there are devils, which are subject to God). As for the Mesha Steel, 2 Kings 3 doesn’t corroborate with the claim that the Moabites won. A plain reading of 2 Kings 3 indicates that Moab lost and that Elijah’s prophecy was fulfilled. Any other claim is not supported by the text.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Only because you’re determined to see it that way. And because your preferred translation uses “indignation” instead of the more proper “fury” or “wrath”. The phrase used in the original, moreover, is used elsewhere exclusively to refer to divine wrath. Since YHWH wouldn’t be angry at Israel for simply doing as they were told, the logical source of said wrath is Chemosh. Further, while the text attempts multiple times to show that YHWH is more powerful than other gods, at no point until well after this period does it try to claim that there are none. Even the first Commandment implies that other gods exist, by specifically telling the flock not to worship them. It’s actually kind of fascinating to watch the Hebrews’ evolution from polytheism, through henotheism, before they fully embrace their current monotheistic view.

  • Bones

    You would have to consider hell as worse than the Holocaust.

    In fact it’s a holocaust on humanity.

    In fact, the Nazis and NKVD were plainly more humane in that the suffering they caused wasn’t everlasting.

    I mean the whole what about Hitler argument means throwing in any decent human who doesn’t have the correct cognitive beliefs no matter how decent their life.

    I’ve seen Corrie Ten Boom forgive her Nazi guards.

    I don’t hate my enemies or want them to suffer. Does Jesus say for us to do one thing like forgive our enemies when He doesn’t?

    Can’t God do that too?

    I believe that Gods exists. The wrathful Maniac doesn’t.

    Did the Father say ‘no’ when Jesus said ‘Forgive them Father, they don’t know what they do”.

    Maybe the Orthodox have it correct in that heaven and hell are states of being in the eternal purifying burning love of God.

    That’s the only definition of hell that makes any sense. Anything else is part of people’s imagination.

  • Nerdsamwich

    According to Thomas Aquinas, watching the suffering of the damned is the chief entertainment in Heaven. Be they little unbaptized babies, kindly pagan grandmothers, or your own loved ones who had the misfortune to die outside of Grace, you will spend eternity watching them burn. And, since there is no sorrow in Heaven, you WILL enjoy it. You will have no choice.

  • John_33

    Even if you change the word to “fury” or “wrath,” the meaning is still the same. The problem is that you’re trying to fit your interpretation into the text that doesn’t work. First, Elijah’s prophesy was fulfilled in verse 25 before the king even sacrificed his son, and even after, nothing occurred that overturned it. Second, it doesn’t make sense to attribute the indignation/wrath to Chemosh. Never in any place does the Bible attribute any power to false gods (only to devils that pretend to be gods, and even then, they are subject to God). As for the original Hebrew word, it’s used mainly to refer to God’s wrath – never the wrath of other supposed deities. There are other instances where it doesn’t refer to divine wrath, such as Esther 1:18 and Hosea 10:7. There’s no evidence to suggest that it’s referring to the wrath of a pagan idol. The claim is absurd.

    Finally, the First Commandment doesn’t recognize other gods (especially when you compare that with Deuteronomy 4:35 and Deuteronomy 32:39). It simply says not to have any gods before God, meaning that you can’t worship God the Creator of Heaven and anything else that is called a god at the same time. It’s as simple as that. It’s saying not to worship false deities.

  • Nerdsamwich

    No. It’s plain unjust to allow someone else to be punished for my misdeeds. It is monstrous, and I will not allow such a perversion to be practiced in my name. If YHWH must have blood, let him take it openly, and not stain the rest of us with it.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Phil was talking about eternal, conscious torture, not legal trial on Earth.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Thomas Aquinas wrote that watching the sinners burn will be the greatest pleasure of heaven–because God decrees it so. There’s nothing to do but sing and watch the show, but there’s no suffering among the blessed, so you WILL enjoy it, whether you want to or not.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Yes, the universe is meaningless. Our lives here on Earth can have meaning no other way. If there’s some universal plan, some great unfolding story, then you’re just a cog in the machine; we’re all nothing but puppets on a stage. Our existence, with all its joys and sorrows, would amount to nothing more than cheap melodrama. Only if there’s no point to it all do our lives get to matter, exactly as much as we have the will and ability to make them matter. You get to create the meaning your life will have every time you get out of bed, with every choice you make. That is the burden of freedom. That is true meaning.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Not so. Elisha’s prophecy stated that Israel would cast down every city of Moab. They clearly did not do so. Mesha’s sacrifice turned the tide of the war: great wrath was poured out against Israel, and they were driven from the field. There’s no evidence to suggest that the outpouring of wrath came from anyone other than Chemosh, and it tortures the text to interpret it otherwise.

    The first commandment doesn’t deny the existence of other gods. It doesn’t call them false, or even say not to worship them. It just says YHWH wants to be number one. It’s as simple as that.

  • John_33

    Where does it say that they were “driven” from the field? The text says that they simply left. And where does it say that they clearly did not cast down every city? The one torturing the text to fit a theory is you. You are making these claims because you hate God.

  • Nerdsamwich

    You’re forgetting the city on whose walls Mesha made his sacrifice. The one that obviously not cast down or delivered into the hands of Israel. As for being driven from the field, why else would they stop short of their goal–short of the divine promise they had received just scant days before? Besides, the Mesha Stele recounts the campaign, the sacrifice, and the Moabite army that harried the Israelite coalition forth, taking back all of the land that Israel had despoiled, and several Hebrew cities in the bargain.

  • John_33

    Actually, I’m not forgetting the wall. Elijah’s prophecy stated that Israel would smite every fenced city, every choice city, fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones. They did that. So the king of Moab was on a wall. So what? There’s nothing in the prophecy that says that there couldn’t be walls in Moab. Maybe the king was on a fragmented wall, but certainly the cities were beaten down as verse 25 says. Given that the king of Moab only had 700 armed men with him when he tried to attack the king of Edom and failed, it shows how defeated his army was. At the end of the day, you are merely pushing the claims about the Mesha Steel over the Bible. You are free to believe what you want, but you are rejecting the plain sense of the text because you oppose God.

  • Nerdsamwich

    No, I’m not. The plain sense of the text is that the sacrifice worked. Remember that the text was written from a specific, self-serving point of view, and that it’s been edited numerous times to reinforce that view. This tale shows that at that time, the people of Israel believed that every nation had its god, and that human sacrifice was effective in getting the attention of those gods. That’s why Abraham rejoiced so when Isaac was spared: he fully expected to sacrifice his son, because that wasn’t a terribly unusual thing for the time and place. Demanding lives was what one expected of a god; he’d just hoped this one would be different.

  • John_33

    All you have demonstrated throughout this conversation is that you don’t know the Bible.

  • Nerdsamwich

    Bullshit. I’ve demonstrated that I refuse to torture logic to come up with an “interpretation” that shows YHWH in a positive light. That you choose to mistake that for ignorance is on you. By the way, you’re straying dangerously close to ad hominem territory. That usually means you’re out of actual argument, and so will just start calling names in order to avoid feeling as though you’ve conceded ground.

  • reformr87

    Some quick facts about Hell:

    1. The concept of an underworld abode for the dead was not original to Christianity, as it was conceived of and written about long before the composition of both the Old and New Testaments. The ancient Near Eastern ideas preceded those in the Bible.

    2. The New Testament scriptures borrow all their terms for hell from other ancient sources: Hades and Tartarus (gods and places from ancient Greek mythology) and Gehenna (from intertestamental and Rabbinic literature).

    3. Many evangelical and even fundamentalist authors admit–when off-stage– that the symbols associated with hell are not meant to be taken literally. They represent notions like “separation from God” or “spiritual death.”

    4. From a practical theological standpoint, one could argue that most Christians living today do not really believe in hell as a literal place of eternal torment. If they did, their missionary efforts would be much more serious and intense.

    5. Even if one takes hell “literally,” there are still many questions about the actual location and extent of this place of torment.

    6. Many supposedly “biblical” messages about hell incorporate extrabiblical themes, images and ideas that are absent from the Bible. For example, notions about different levels of hell, demonic torments and the occupants of hell often owe more to Virgil, Dante, Milton or movies and graphic novels than to scripture.

    7. Recent reinterpretations of hell as somewhere “out there in space” or ” deep inside the human heart” run counter to the original, ancient tales of hell or the underworld being localized somewhere in the bowels of the earth.

  • reformr87

    In light of my previous post, a key question still remains: What is the ontological status of what is represented by words like sheol, Hades, gehenna and Tartarus? Or what is the reality behind the images, the masks, the ciphers?

    A quick answer: From the vantage point of the Gospel, it is a SERIOUS personal decision that is tied to these ancient images.

    Jesus evoked the seriousness of hell throughout His earthly ministry (See Mt. 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 11:23; 16:18 ; 18:9; 23:15 & 33; Mk. 9:47; Lu. 10:15; 12:5 & 16:23) . As rabbi, teacher, prophet and revealed Son of God, He confronted his hearers with a serious choice tied to the many images about being lost.

    Hell’s eternal mysteries do not invalidate its alliance with the most serious choice facing all human beings: eternal life with God through Jesus Christ or separation from all that is beautiful, good and pure in this world and beyond.

  • reformr87

    “Adam in Christ” has cited a lot of passages here. In all of them, one word (“hell”) is used, even though, hopefully, the author realizes that the original biblical words (Sheol, Hades, Gehenna and Tartarus) and their ancient meanings are glossed over when the one English word is given preference. Sheol has affinities with the shadowy underworld of the Mesopotamians; Hades and Tartarus are BOTH gods and locales in ancient Greek myth that precedes Christianity (see Homer and Hesiod!); Gehenna refers to the Valley of Hinnom, a refuse heap and place of pagan Israelite sacrifice to Moloch (a fact known by generations of Bible scholars LONG BEFORE Rob Bell’s book Love Wins). The point: long before the Old and New Testaments were written, many others told stories and constructed pre-scientific narrations about this place Christians now designate with one word.

  • reformr87

    A different psychology of hell and salvation emerges from vastly different options in the Christian faith. I will try to classify these general options below with a minimum of academic jargon:

    1. The “Redeemed”-But-Never-Really-Certain Option:

    This is the psychology represented by many Wesleyan-Holiness/ Pentecostal groups who constantly remind their adherents that “you may be saved today, but you can lose God’s grace at anytime hereafter, and if you die during a fall from your faith, eternal hell and suffering await you.” According to this option, a believer can never know for certain if he is secure in his salvation, as he stands constantly on a precipice over eternal suffering. Of all the underlying Christian psychologies about salvation and hell, this one might be the most severe. It robs people in this life of a certain hope (beyond a vague “blessed assurance” and condemns them to a one-way trip into eternal condemnation.

    2. The Limited Second-Chance Option:

    In this scenario (represented primarily by Roman Catholic thought), a person who “falls from grace” and dies could end up in a limbo state (Purgatory) where impurities are burnt away and entrance into heaven is still possible, even after death. In this option, the highway to hell has exit ramps aided by prayers of the saints. But forget Purgatory if you committed mortal sins while living.This view of perdition allows some reversals in limbo, as opposed to the prior view (#1) that offers no comfort for backsliders who die.

    3. The Selective-Annihilation Option:

    On this model, the redeemed go to heaven, but those who were lost end up annihilated for eternity, never to awaken again. The lost who will not regain consciousness again. It is presumed in this option that eternal consciousness in heaven is preferable to eternal nonbeing (which IS actually the goal for final salvation in some forms of Buddhism!).

    4. The Narrow-Road Election Option:

    Folks campaigning for this idea proclaim Christ’s words “broad is the way that leads to destruction” (Mt. 7:13-14) as part of their anthem in support of the “doctrine” that a majority of people are preordained by God to be tormented in eternal hell even before they are born. The “righteous remnant” (a tiny group of elected believers in this fallen world) can be be assured of their eternal salvation. Why? Because God chose them for eternal bliss even before they were born. This is why the tiny remnant is eternally secure. Their salvation was determined by God before they existed. Ironically, in this Evangelical camp, a majority of believers often consider themselves part of this tiny group despite simultaneously viewing the majority of us as damned. Go figure!

    5. The Everyone-but-the-Worst-Make-it Alternative:

    On this account, hell or perdition is reserved for the worst of the worst (i.e. the Devil, his minions of fallen angels, the Antichrist, false prophet….maybe Judas and a few other notables). Some versions of this narrative hold out a version of purgation after death for those who are still redeemable, but the focus here is on the “a great multitude no man could number” seen in heaven by John the Revelator (Rev. 7:9). If this is literally a mass of humanity from all nations that nobody can number, perhaps God preordains most of humanity for salvation.

    6. The Everyone-is-(or-Might be)-Redeemed in the End:

    The third century, Alexandrian theologian Origin sketched a version of this option. Many conservative Christians despise this “heretical” thought because it is “unfair” and insults their sense of a heavenly meritocracy where rewards are “earned” by sinners “saved by grace.” So, evidently professing supporters of “unmerited favor” have trouble with a view that saves all beings and all of creation in spite of THEIR protests of what is fair. Besides, who really wants to believe God will have sympathy for Satan in the end?!

    7. The Myth-and-Metaphor Alternative:

    Those supporting this view refuse to argue about a literal, “spatially-located” hell or heaven, arguing that such Biblical words represent other ancient ideas or stories borrowed (stolen) to explain the afterlife in different mythologies (i.e. Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman, etc). Or, proponents of this view emphasize that myths and metaphors about heaven and hell represent perennial, existential realities that we still do not understand (altered states of consciousness, political structures,social arrangements, etc.).

    8. The “We-Know-Hell’s-Symbolic-but-the-Masses-Need-it” Option:

    Proponents of this option QUIETLY agree with the vocal supporters of #7, but once outside of educated sectors, they preach literal hell fire in their pulpits and popular works. WHY? Often, they rationalize this compartmentalization by suggesting that widespread belief in eternal torment gives people incentive to be moral. Does such religious pragmatism really make sense? They seem to think so.

    This is obviously not an exhaustive list. Other non-Christian alternatives frequently crop up in churches, such as reincarnation or the final sleep of all the dead regardless of a person’s faith commitment in life. Many of these general options compete in the Christian sphere for serious attention.

  • Elle

    giving up the idea of hell has freed me to love Jesus even more

  • robinhelene

    What about the reference: where the worm does not die? What does that mean?

  • robinhelene

    Amen well said

  • robinhelene

    Giselle, I have friends who have departed from the beliefs we are talking about. They don’t lose their salvation, so how does God deal with people spreading false doctrine?

  • Seruga Owomusu

    You sum up my comment in yoz! thanx you simply the best….

  • Bill Burchard

    Excellent article, Benjamin.

  • Trevor Stoute

    hell holds sway because there have to be some in and some out .. also, the argument will be that all humans are not children of God – a person must be saved to warrant that title .. and don’t forget the justice of God and holiness too, can’t only focus on God’s love .. and don’t forget it’s the #1 bullet in the gun – that’s the one to get them with, puts the fear o’ God in ’em.

  • Icare

    This site is excellent and here is a link about your question! http://tentmaker.org/site-search.html?q=worm%20dieth%20not

  • Icare

    These sites are good to answer your statements – http://www.tentmaker.org/ and http://www.hopebeyondhell.net/

  • Icare
  • Some Guy Somewhere

    Why should those troubling conclusions about God be rejected? Those conclusions are most consistent with the God of the Bible. The New Testament was a nice PR piece, but it really can’t erase the monstrosity that God is supposed to be, according to the authoritative document on His nature.

  • Richard Lambert

    I would like to first put forth that I am not attacking anyone here,
    these are just some of my own honest responses that are probably mostly
    products of my religious upbringing (or just what ive been taught in
    church…i dont really have a religious “upbringing” per se). At any
    rate, I really would like to discuss these and hear all your thought.
    Also, just to put this out there so yall will know where im coming from,
    Ive attended a baptist church since my early teens….

    Which of your children would you send to hell? – In my own studies and
    from what ive been taught at church,theres something thats never
    specifically said (of course because church attendance would probably
    drop like flies). This implied idea that those who dont profess to be
    christians….arnt really anywhere in the vicinity of BEING children of
    God. So if your not a christian…if you dont “know Him”…if He dosent
    “know you”…why wouldn’t you go to hell…I guess is the idea. This
    question implies that every one on earth, regardless of thier standing,
    are Gods children anyway, which sounds wonderful!! But its hard to lay
    down a belief in hell…not because I like it, but because its been
    quite literally beaten into my psych.

    2) Am I more
    loving/merciful than God? – No, but I believe the common baptist teaching on this
    is “…A holy God cannot allow sin before Him to go unpunished and/or
    that SOMEHOW it would be unloving for him…not to…. or some
    crap.”….at any rate, im not a father yet, maybe never.

    Again, these are just some thoughts that come to mind reading this blog.

  • Richard Lambert

    Care to specify a few that concern you?

  • Richard Lambert

    I dont have time right now to reference the rest but…and this could possibly be due to the translation i have on hand…But in the first scripture you present, In regard yo multiple levels of hell….i think thats kind of reading into it. All it says in mine is “…from the depths of the grave or sheol.” I’ll read the rest later. Thanks for this. :)

  • Some Guy Somewhere

    None of them concern me, but the OT describes a vengeful, capricious, jealous, violent God that takes pleasure in blood, pain, slavery, and death. It’s perfectly consistent with a Hell.

  • Richard Lambert

    So you dont think everyone is a child of God, or let me phrase is a different way…do you not think God loves everyone like they were His children?

  • Stephanie J

    One question….if there is no hell, then why bother choosing to be a Christian? What are you being “saved” from if hell doesn’t exist?
    Personally, I think the traditional interpretation of hell is a little off….I don’t think it’s a physical place in the sense of like New York being a physical place. Neither is heaven for that matter. We lose our physical bodies when we die, so whether we go to heaven or hell, it’s not a physical place we go to. A different dimension maybe? I don’t know. Regardless, I believe hell to be an existence that is completely devoid of the presence of God. Biblical writers used a lot of metaphor to describe things which is why I think they tried to use the most terrible things they could think of to try and describe the horror that would be hell, an existence completely without God in it. So many people try to deny that God exists, but I don’t think they realize what life would be like without him. Nonetheless, because he does love us and wants us to love him of our own volition, he gives us the option to choose…an existence with him (heaven) or an existence without him (hell). You ask how a loving God could send his children to hell….the short answer is he doesn’t. We send ourselves by not choosing him. As a parent, we do everything we can to protect and provide for our children, but we can’t force them to accept what we provide or to make the choices we want them to make. We can do all the right things and still have children who make terrible choices and end up in terrible places. Does that make us bad or unloving? Absolutely not, but our children still have to live with the consequences of their own choices.
    We are flawed as humans, and just like a piece of pottery with a flaw in it will be destroyed in the kiln, if we did not have the covering provided by the blood of Jesus, our flaws would destroy us in the perfect presence of God.
    Another example could be if we tried to fly to the center of the sun. Without adequate shielding, we’d die before we even got close, not because the sun hates us or wants to destroy us all, but because, as we are, we are ill-equipped to survive the inherent nature of the sun. Suppose there was a company that provided us shields so that we could go to the center of the sun? We’d be fools not to accept that shield, wouldn’t we? And if that was the only company that provided a reliable shield? Getting a shield from a different company would still get you fried.
    Because God loves us so very much, he has made sure that every single one of us has access to a shield. But he won’t force us to take it, and even though it breaks his heart, he won’t stop us if we refuse that shield.

  • Dana Carpender

    “A holy God cannot allow sin before Him to go unpunished.” Why not? I thought He was omnipotent. I thought He was calling the shots. Is God actually subject to limitations? Are there rules of the God Game?

  • Richard Lambert

    i dunno, im not God, thats just what ive always been told. =<

  • Guy Norred

    The answer to your opening question as clearly as I can see is that if you don’t know, no one can tell you–and that is OK. That is why it is faith. Jesus said there are those with ears to hear. Does that not imply that there are those without? What of these? Only the Spirit can open our ears and our eyes and the Spirit works with each of us in our uniqueness. When you know, you know, and when you don’t….how can God who sees our hearts condemn us for not understanding. Paul reminds us that none see God completely or clearly in this life. We each have our partial view. If the view that one has doesn’t answer your question, then it is dishonest to profess otherwise. Is this faith or is it cynicism? For that matter, why not some other religion? As Pascal’s wager goes, is Christianity necessarily the best insurance policy–because that is really what your sun shield is, isn’t it?

  • YouDontKnowSponge

    The only hell I believe in is this earth. The biblical teaching is such an abusive teaching and I don’t know how anyone can believe there deceased loved ones could possibly be suffering in hell right now whether they followed Jesus or not. I do believe in life after death and some sort of creator but in my beliefs sin is an illusion created by man to get people to go against homosexuality and your whole religion is a lie to mind control you. It wouldn’t make sense for a responsible and almighty creator to let most of their creations to go to waste and claim they chose to suffer whether they followed him or not. God cannot be called almighty if anyone was recieving eternal torment in their after life.

  • daniel

    I honestly am starting to think that there is a place of punishment after death, but that it is temporary. Rather being tormented for the sake of it, one is being corrected and disciplined. Then, after the punishment you are given a choice of whether you want to remain in your sins and vices, or if you want to repent of them. If you refuse, then you will be eternally tormented. I don’t “officially” hold this view though. Just speculation. I feel that the problem with the traditional view of hell and heaven is that it assumes that every single person who has died or will eventually die are 100% wicked or 100% righteous. That doesn’t seem to make sense. No one is 100% good or bad. At least I don’t think so. There has to be a choice or a hope for those who are kind of in the middle, right? If not in this life, then in the next. That only makes sense. Then there is suffering. How many people in this life have suffered or will suffer horrible anguish, heartaches, sorrows, physical pains, etc? And how many didn’t know or have Jesus Christ? And I’m not just talking about lands where Christianity doesn’t exist, I’m talking about even people here in the U.S. It simply is not enough to hear of Jesus Christ, one has to be preached to about Him, and shown what He wants and how He wants us to live. Will these unfortunate ones be cast into even more suffering, eternal suffering? I would think that God will have mercy on them. The traditional Christian view of the afterlife scares me. It’s like every time you leave the house, every face you look at you think to yourself, “Which one is in the elect, and which one is a reprobate?” And according to the traditional view, almost everyone yoi see is destined to everlasting torment. That makes so anxious and sad. Like, extremely anxious and sad :( And some might ask: what would be the reason of Christianity if hell wasn’t eternal? Well, I guess the same reason you would teach your children to eat healthy. So that in the future they won’t suffer from heart disease or obesity. Likewise you would preach Jesus Christ to prevent them from suffering anything in the afterlife. So that, if they faithfully follow Him, they could go immediately to rest rather than any punishment. But again, this is all only speculation.

  • far-echo

    Owen Richard Kindig… such beauty in your post. Where have you heard these things?

  • drichards85

    When your analogy falls apart…

    “But as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” John 1:12

    “Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8:42-44

    “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:13-14

    “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Ephesians 2:2

    “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.” Colossians 3:5-6

    “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” Hebrews 12:7-9

  • Arananthi

    > if there is no hell, then why bother choosing to be a Christian?

    If the only reason to choose Christianity is fear, haven’t you kind of missed the point from the get-go?

  • Arananthi

    re: John — So according to this Gospel, your spiritual father changes depending on your actions? God isn’t your father until you repent and are redeemed, and then only until you sin again?

    re: Colossians — Sure, the wrath of any loving father cometh upon the children of disobedience. But the whole point is that the wrath of a loving father generally doesn’t (and can’t!) consist of throwing your disobedient children into a fire and passively observing while they burn.

    re: Hebrews — I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be willing to set my bastard children on fire either, even for a few minutes. I mean, seriously, I wouldn’t be willing to set a complete stranger’s bastard children on fire.

    Heck, I wouldn’t be willing to set my *worst enemy’s* bastard children on fire. Which brings me right back to John again — how can a loving, benevolent, sane entity throw *anyone* into a pit of eternal torture? Even a child of their Adversary?

  • Jan Westbury

    I really agree with your point #4. Why do hell-believing Christians just laze around not lifting a finger to warn their neighbors about the pit of flames they are bound for if they don’t acceptJesusastheirpersonalsavior? I contend they don’t really believe in hell–and don’t know it!

  • drichards85

    No, God isn’t your Father unless you have been born of the Spirit. This normally happens through baptism, cf. John 3. No where does Scripture say *all* people are God’s children. God allows His children to be chastened through trials, but if we refuse His chastening, we are not like sons but bastards, i.e. illegitimate children. That is, we do not receive the inheritance, we do not become co-heirs with Christ, eternal life.

    I have given the author basic Scriptural reasons why his analogy is flawed. The damned are not children of God or co-heirs with Christ. We become sons *by adoption* and must accept God’s chastisements and we must suffer with Christ if we are to be glorified with Christ. To refuse to accept this is simply pride.

    But now, the goalpost is being shifted: how could a loving ‘entity’ throw *anyone* into a pit of eternal fire? This is a question–not an argument. And it is charged with emotion, not logically thought through. It is as if one expects the benevolence of God to be analogous to human benevolence. But why should we think that?

    Let’s turn your question around: What sane person, being given the mercy of a lifetime to repent, and being warned of the consequences of unrepentance, would persist in unrepentant sin? God has given us everything we need for salvation. We only need to accept it and amend our way of life. Viewed in this light, refusal to acknowledge any consequence for the way we live our lives is revealed to be a form of spiritual immaturity, sickness, and rebellion.

  • Imagine

    Why is it so easy for everyone to have faith through fear? Transcend above individual emotion and you will see god, and it is wonderful, but not what you traditionally imagined. See the interconnective love that shows us a world beyond ours. Hell is only real because we believe it so. True understanding will set you free. I am so sorry.

  • Ken Fawcett

    “No where does Scripture say *all* people are God’s children.”

    How about this scripture? If he’s father of all, all must be his children.

    “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:6

    Without believing in Christ we cannot live like God’s children, but it doesn’t mean he’s not our Father. The prodigal son was always a son even while he was living away from the Father. He wasn’t living as a son, but never ceased being a son.

  • Elephile

    I know you wrote this about a year ago, but I will briefly respond.

    The bible does not teach hell. I know it’s been translated that way, but the words used do not mean what you think of as hell at all. “Hell” is an old Germanic word meaning an enclosed space, and the idea attached to it is not Jewish but most likely comes from Zoroastirianism. Bad bible translating took 4 words and rendered all of them hell. Here’s what they really mean:

    – Sheol (Hebrew): place or state of being dead, the grave
    – Hades (Greek): used by Greek-speaking Jews to translate Sheol
    – Gehenna (Greek): a rubbish dump outside Jerusalem where corpses of executed criminals were also thrown. Fires were lit to keep down disease. Jesus was crucified right next to this. Today it is a garden.
    – Tartarus (Greek): mentioned once as a temporary prison of non-human spirits, who were liberated at the time of Jesus’s death

    Sadly, the truth has been hidden by those who want to exercise power and use fear to do so. God never created or prepared torment for anyone. He is and will always be faithful to his whole creation, and bring all of it, from all time, to life, fullness, reconciliation with God and each other, and will heal all those who have been hurt and all those who have hurt others.

  • Elephile

    The holiness (otherness) consists of him not being like all those other gods, who demand compliance, take from their followers, exercise power over them, threaten them, and only grant favors conditionally.

    The holiness consists in God being faithful instead of demanding we be faithful; in healing those who are hurt and dysfunctional instead of punishing them; in giving himself instead of demanding sacrifice; in giving life and health instead of death and despair.

  • Elephile

    What about the “ALL IN ALL” proposition: God (that is, LOVE) gives all that he is, freely, to all that there is, has been, and ever will be.

  • Elephile

    Thank you for asking:

    – Sheol (Hebrew): place or state of being dead, the grave
    – Hades (Greek): used by Greek-speaking Jews to translate Sheol
    – Gehenna (Greek): a rubbish dump outside Jerusalem where corpses of executed criminals were also thrown. Fires were lit to keep down disease. Jesus was crucified right next to this. Today it is a garden.
    – Tartarus (Greek): mentioned once as a temporary prison of non-human spirits, who were liberated at the time of Jesus’s death

    There: no eternal torment.

    Oh, and the “Lake of Fire” isn’t a lake, it’s a safe harbor with healing sulfur, and Jesus is there with the angels to help you. You could call it a health spa. Again, not hell.

  • Elephile

    – Sheol (Hebrew): place or state of being dead, the grave
    – Hades (Greek): used by Greek-speaking Jews to translate Sheol

    Gehenna (Greek): a rubbish dump outside Jerusalem where corpses of
    executed criminals were also thrown. Fires were lit to keep down
    disease. Jesus was crucified right next to this. Today it is a garden.
    – Tartarus (Greek): mentioned once as a temporary prison of non-human spirits, who were liberated at the time of Jesus’s death

    And ultimately there will be no death. That means no first death, no second death, no third death, no ………..millionth death. All will be made alive and reconciled.

  • Elephile

    Creation includes all humans. God (Love) is faithful to the whole creation, without exception.

    The mass suicide and murder you describe are horrible. How will these be addressed? By giving life and healing to all concerned, the victims and the perpetrators; by reconciling them with each other; by doing away completely with the dreadful things that happened.

  • Elephile

    You’re right. And the bible does not teach that anyone has a soul – you ARE a soul, meaning a living being. YOU are alive, YOU die, YOU are given life again when God makes all things new.

  • Steve Gillette

    Belief in hell does not equal belief in eternal conscious torment. Hell is where those not attaining eternal life perish.

  • Henry Verdier Jr.

    John 8:42-44 New International Version (NIV)
    42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.


    NOT EVERYONE of us walking this earth is a CHILD of God (there are prerequisites to being a child of God; just being a human ISN’T ONE); and you already know the implications that subscribes to.

    But, within your entire article, the most naive aspect is that, you are correlating God’s way of doing things to Man’s way of doing things: (I guess your genius doesn’t understand Isaiah 55:8-9)

    Very funny and ironical !!!