Would A Righteous God Torment People In Hell For Eternity?

Would A Righteous God Torment People In Hell For Eternity? September 14, 2016

Fire Background

After leaving Christian fundamentalism, I shed off a lot of previously held beliefs– some of them were beliefs quite central to my faith. One of those core beliefs I ended up letting go of was a belief in the traditional version of hell that exists in much of modern Christianity.

I have written a great deal on the topic of hell over the past year or so. What started as a short series on hell has turned into an interactive experience where I have continued to process issues and questions that many of you have raised in our discussions– questions quite worthy of exploration. I’ll keep doing this as long as there are questions to discuss.

One of the most common critiques levied at myself, and those who reject the concept of eternal conscious torment, is that we are ignoring the righteousness of God. The counterargument (which isn’t a substantive counterargument) goes something like this: “Yeah, but God is righteous” or “A righteous God must ____” and then they fill in the blank with whatever their argument is. Or, most generically, they’ll just say, “God’s righteousness demands hell.”

I’m sorry, but there’s a lot of problems with that argument.

Let’s look at the concept of righteousness. At its core, the word simply means to perfectly do what is right or just. In this regard, no one is arguing that God does what is less than good, less than right, or less than just. In fact, one of the reasons I no longer believe in traditional hell is because of God’s righteousness, not in spite of it. If even a sinful, deeply flawed, human parent would never even consider throwing their child into flames to be tortured, I cannot fathom how God– the one Jesus claimed was the perfect parent– would do that, either.

Thus, one could say (and I’m saying it now), that because we affirm the righteousness of God, we also affirm that subjecting someone to torture by burning in flames would be inconsistent with righteousness.

Conversely, in order for the argument of “but God is righteous” to prevail in discussions on hell, one would need to go deeper– one would need to actually prove that eternal conscious torment is the “right” thing for God to do. Righteousness is not an isolated action, but a description of action– it is not a word that can be used as a trump card apart from a deeper argument answering, “What is right action?”

And even when you explore the question, “What is right action?” one must have a starting point for determining right action from wrong action.

I believe the entire issue of God’s righteousness is the wrong beginning to the discussion. One of the traps many fall into is the belief that God has multiple character traits/attributes, and that these attributes are all somehow equal to one another. While God does have multiple attributes, there is one attribute that rules them all: Love.

The book of 1 John reveals this to us quite plainly, stating that “God is love.” Notice it doesn’t say that God is loving (describing an attribute) but says that God is love, which is describing a core essence. This core essence of love becomes the starting point for discussing all other attributes of God– if God is love, then every action by God is loving. Thus, before any discussion on what is righteous, we must first ask, “What is loving?”

In order to declare what is righteous, one must have an immovable starting point to judge righteous action from unrighteous– and that immovable point is love. We can declare that God is perfectly righteous because we know that God is perfectly love– if love does not come first, there is no basis for determining what is righteous– it would be completely arbitrary.

When we correctly view love as being the core essence of God’s identity, holding to a traditional view of hell becomes difficult to do unless one radically redefines love. One would have to explain why perfect love would create a hell in the first place, why perfect love would make it a place of punitive torment instead of loving restoration, and why perfect love would subject that vast majority of people who have ever lived to such unimaginable, unending torture. Most of all, one would have to explain how being tormented in flames for all of eternity is actually loving for the individuals being tormented.

If God is love, and if hell is real, the entire purpose of hell must be rooted in a deep love for those who are sent there— and I don’t know how to make that argument without making love into something it is not.

So, when I reject the belief in hell, am I ignoring the righteousness of God?

No, not at all.

But I would counter with this: When you affirm belief in the traditional view of hell, you most likely are ignoring the love of God.

Asking if a righteous God would send people to hell to be tormented for eternity is the wrong question. The better question is: Would a perfectly loving God do that?


unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.

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  • Guy Norred

    The other part of it is the idea that righteousness demands punishment or revenge (unless one accepts the get out of jail free card–salvation through Jesus). While this two wrongs making a right philosophy may be somehow comforting (if one feels one is the first wronged party) to us, most of us don’t have to work TOO hard to see this as lowering ourselves, not raising. Why should we worship a god of such self centered and little feelings if we ourselves can do better?

  • Like you pointed out, to say that a righteous God would send people to Hell means that there is some kind of universal obligation where sin “should” be punished with eternal torture, and I wish I had a better handle on where the roots of that belief are.

    I mean, even in its most brutal moments, there’s no law in the Old Testament where the penalty for a breach is eternal torture. Or even a predefined period of torture. So, where do we get the idea that it is -right- and -equitable- that someone sinning should go to Hell, and therefore God is righteous by doing so?

    Then again, sometimes I wonder if this complex of ideas is like that corporate training trust exercise where people stand in a circle and everyone sits down on the knees of the person behind them. Maybe there is no “root.” Maybe there’s just a self-referential complex of ideas that support each other.

  • BrotherRog

    Answer: Hell no! “…That said, I – along with many other Christians – am agnostic about the afterlife. I don’t know if there’s a heaven or a hell. I rather suspect that the only hells that exist are the ones that we create and allow at this time. I don’t follow Jesus in order to go to heaven when I die — or conversely, to avoid going to hell. That’s a cheap form of faith that is really nothing more than fire insurance. I follow Jesus here and now for the sake of experiencing salvation (which means “wholeness” and “healing”) here and now – and to help others do the same. …”

    See more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2015/03/to-hell-with-hell/

    Roger Wolsey, author, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity

  • Mark

    You are correct. Since we are all sinners tainted with the propensity to sin which is what ‘original sin’ refers too. Then “nothing impure can enter heaven” must be referring to the love offered to God. If you are doing good for the promise of heaven or the fear of hell (self concern) then it is imperfect. Love of God for loves sake is the pure love.
    I cannot imagine an after life either, but then that’s what scripture says:
    ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the human heart conceived,
    what God has prepared for those who love him’—
    If we cannot imagine what heaven is like then how can we conceive a spatial/temporal hell? ‘Eternal fire’ is a metaphor for total annihilation which is forever, because it can’t be reversed. God “the source of life” offers his total love, refusal is refusal of life itself which equals death by free choice. The omni-benevolent God is not responsible for a choice a person makes having been given plenty of opportunity throughout life. (Lazarus & the rich man) If God rejoices in the saving of a lost sheep, then it follows he must weep for those he loses. Our pure love of God is to TRY to bring other sheep to him. No greater love has a person than to lay down their life to bring another soul to God. (‘laying down your life’ meaning being Jesus ‘Other self’ doing his work instead of living solely for self.)

  • Questioning

    I used to be a Southern Baptist. Fear of the “angry God” plays a big part in Baptist theology, i.e scaring people into “coming to Jesus.” The thing I could never quite reconcile was really a basic question… why would God create us, give us free will to accept or reject Him, and then be angry at us for doing exactly what he allowed? Makes no sense, plus I think using this emotional blackmail is dishonest and is not conducive to a loving relationship with Him. Just another reason I left the Baptist faith.

  • RonnyTX

    Benjamin:
    Asking if a righteous God would send people to hell to be tormented for eternity is the wrong question. The better question is: Would a perfectly loving God do that?

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    Amen, to that! :-) And the way I put it now, no, God/Jesus Christ who is love, would never create or send anyone, to a hell of eternal torment. And what “hell” we catch, that’s going to be in this lifetime and not the next.

  • RonnyTX

    Questioning:
    I used to be a Southern Baptist. Fear of the “angry God” plays a big part in Baptist theology, i.e scaring people into “coming to Jesus.” The thing I could never quite reconcile was really a basic question… why would God create us, give us free will to accept or reject Him, and then be angry at us for doing exactly what he allowed? Makes no sense, plus I think using this emotional blackmail is dishonest and is not conducive to a loving relationship with Him. Just another reason I left the Baptist faith.

    Ronny to Questioning:
    Questioning, over the years I have also left what I call, my little part of the Baptist faith. My particular version, was Calvinistic Baptist. Now I only believed that way, because I was brought up in a local church, taught that way, from time I was born. I was taught there, that God had only chosen to save some people and the rest, God had chosen hell for them. I was also taught, that my church and only those just like it, was the one and only true church of God. Others, outside of my church, might be Christian; but they were not members of the true church, at all. I was taught to look down on such people and think of myself, as better than them. And when I thought about that later on, it amazed me that anyone who was a Calvinistic in belief, could think that way. And I smile now at the great irony of all of this, because at 16teen years old, I was born of God and the sin in me, that God showed me and brought me to repentance about, was my selfrighteousness. :-) And in saving me, God proved to me that God/Jesus Christ is love. And from and because of that, God gave to me a love for all people and caused me to love and care for all people. :-) And 4 years before I was born of God, I was a church member and thought I was a Christian/thought I had been saved. But I only thought and believed that, because at 12 years old, I had been taught to feel so guilty, about a part of myself, had gone up at church in tears and believed everything the preacher said to me. He thought I had been saved, so of course, I thought the same. And in a few days I was baptized and was a local church member. But as I put it later, at the time I was simply a wet Baptist. :-) And I’m just so thankful, that God entered my life, showed me that and saved me. :-) And I’m just so glad too, that God gave me a love for all people. :-) And it was just 6 or 7 years ago now, that God showed me that Jesus Christ, is truly the Saviour of the whole world. :-) And that there is no Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment. :-) Now when I first heard of some Christians who believed that way, I wished such was true; but I thought it too good to be true! (ha) But I simply did what God had previously taught me to do, about another matter. That is, I read what these Christians had to say, why they believed as they did and the scriptures they cited, to show why they believed this way. And that is how I came to be, Christian universalist in belief. :-) So yes, the way I believe now, is that before all is said and done, every person from Adam on down, will be born of God, by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Mark:
    If God rejoices in the saving of a lost sheep, then it follows he must weep for those he loses.

    Ronny to Mark:
    Mark, the way I see it, God/Jesus Christ, doesn’t lose any sheep. :-) A real good article on this, on the following link.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/inspirationals/ninetynine.html

  • RonnyTX

    Phil, below is a link to what some church leaders, down through the years, have had to say about hell. I read it though once and partially, a few other times. But unless I had to or was forced to, there is no way I could read such again, from beginning to end. It’s just that bad, what some church leaders have said about God, hell and the sufferings of those they believe will go to a Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/Quotes/hell-fire.htm

  • RonnyTX

    Amen Guy, amen! :-) But I will add, I can see why some people believe in a Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment. I did myself, till around 6 or 7 years ago. But I only believed such, because I got that teaching from some people, in the local church I grew up in. And where I can truthfully say, I never got the teaching of hell from, was from God/Jesus Christ. But the biggest problem I can see in the various denominational churches, like the one I was once in, is that there were are taught to listen to some people, preachers, etc, as it they were God/Jesus Christ. Been there myself and taught to do that. And I am so grateful to God, that God brought me out of such and taught me better. :-) And all praise and glory for that, goes to God. For it was God, who freed me, by showing and teaching me better. :-)

  • Mark

    I don’t doubt the desire that not one is lost but to clarify what you are saying. Everyone is saved and only death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire? If so What would the point be of the no lose scenario?

  • Brandon Roberts

    i’m not a christian but this seems like a no brainer in some cases. for people like hitler stalin pedophile priests they never repented and caused massive pain and suffering to innocent people

  • RonnyTX

    Guthrum:
    Purgatory is a man made concept. It is no where in the Holy Bible.

    Ronny to Guthrum:
    I agree and would say the same, about hell.

  • Man, Tertullian, get a grip.

    Yeah, I couldn’t finish it, either.

  • Guy Norred

    It was actually someone casually asserting the certainty of Hitler in Hell a few years ago that started my journey on this subject. I agree that Hitler did terrible things, but none of us can, as I believe God can, see into Hitler’s heart to understand why he became this monster. I don’t say this to excuse his actions but I think I can honestly say I don’t have a clue what it would take to make me do the things he did. If this is simply because I haven’t experienced some sort of pain that Hitler carried, then I am no better than he for not experiencing it. If it is because even if I had experienced this, I still would have found the strength to not do so, then I have the privilege of the gift of that strength, and it is again not I myself who is better than Hitler. Basically, I don’t know what it is to be Hitler, so I am in no place to judge his soul.

  • Except for the fact that 1 John uses “God is love” as a reason for us to be loving by way of analogy. If the notion of God’s love is fundamentally absurd and there is no human analogue for it, how could any biblical author make this argument with a straight face?

    Or how could Jesus encourage doing good to enemies on the grounds of being like your Father in heaven who sends rain and causes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust? If there is no relationship between God’s love, justice, faithfulness, etc. and the human equivalent of those things, how would any of those exhortations make sense?

    While I might warm to the idea that the way in which God is love can’t be comprehensively defined by human love, or that there are legitimate points of difference, there has to be a legitimate analogy as well, at least as the biblical narrative presupposes it. Otherwise, what would the writer of 1 John have possibly hoped to communicate? What did he intend his readers to do besides act randomly?

  • Jeanne Fox

    I read that and got depressed. I thought it was wrong to laugh at other people’s misfortunes. According to some of these religious leaders, it is Ok. Even God laughs at them while they are writhing in pain.

  • RonnyTX

    Amen Guy and I completely agree with you.

  • RonnyTX

    Mark to Ronny:
    I don’t doubt the desire that not one is lost but to clarify what you are saying. Everyone is saved and only death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire? If so What would the point be of the no lose scenario?

    Ronny to Mark:
    Mark, a long last 24 hours and I’m simply not 100% sure what you’re asking me here? But yes, I do believe there will be people, who go to the lake of fire. But according to Revelation 14:11,12, I believe Jesus Christ will be there, with the others. Why? Because he loves them. And his holy presence will bring them all to repentance and take them on to faith, in Him. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Jeanne to Ronny:
    I read that and got depressed. I thought it was wrong to laugh at other people’s misfortunes. According to some of these religious leaders, it is Ok. Even God laughs at them while they are writhing in pain.

    Ronny to Jeanne:
    I know what you mean, Jeanne. The first time I read that through, it was depressing to me too. And those quotes, they have nothing in common, with what God gave to me, when I was born of God. But at that time, God proved to me, how greatly God/Jesus Christ loved me. He loved me so much, He went to the cross for me and for every person and there, took all of our sins upon Himself. :-) And there is even scripture which tells us, that God is reconciled to all of us. And when God saved me, God gave me the great desire, that all people would come to know God/Jesus Christ, just as God had done for me. :-) But in the Calvinist church I grew up in, I was taught to believe that was not the way of it. But just a few years ago, God showed and taught me better. Praise God! :-) And that is why now, when I walk my little dog down to a local cemetery, I break into song, with the following. “When we all, get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Phil to Ronny:
    Man, Tertullian, get a grip.

    Yeah, I couldn’t finish it, either.

    Ronny to Phil:
    I read his quote and some others just now and I see what you mean! :-( And I went on down to the bottom of that post and ran upon a link, that I haven’t seen before. Clicked on it and read that. A lot better stuff on that next page, than on the one I posted a link to! (ha)

    One thing I think on too, God, in scripture, tells us that we are to love our enemies, do good by them, etc. And on the cross, Jesus Christ prayed and asked God the Father, to forgive the very people who were killing him. Well, as I see it, that was not just the immediate people who were doing that; but all of us. For Jesus took all of our sins upon himself. Well then, the question I would ask of some people, what is left to be forgiven? Which is why I now believe, that at some point, every person, from Adam on down, will be born of God, by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. :-) It’s just a matter of God bringing each person to repentance, showing them what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross and in that way taking them on to faith in Jesus Christ. :-)

  • Mark

    I know there are those who believe that all souls are ultimately saved including Satan. However I would question the point of it all if this were the case. My understanding of omnipotent is the ability to do anything that is possible, but not to do that which is not possible, And more power doesn’t make the impossible possible. There are some things God cannot do. He cannot give free choice to love him and then punish for refusal then be considered omni-benevolent. The lake of fire comes across as being symbolic of annihilation. Fire is a metaphor for total destruction and eternal because recovery is not possible. People choose this by their free choice. God cannot then take away that choice simply because his love cannot let go.
    Mat10:28 “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
    In the parable of the field workers Jesus implied that all of his followers great or not great receive the same reward; paradise! This did not include those who refused work at all. An example was the thief on the cross which demonstrated that salvation is possible right up until death. He was the worker who came at the end of the day. However Lazarus and the Rich man demonstrated that once dead there is a ‘chasm’ through which no one can pass. A death from which even God cannot reclaim.

    “Mat10:28 8Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” I suspect that because God is love it would be illogical if Jesus were referring to God. Satan maybe is the one who seeks to kill people and by leading them astray it can result in the killing of the soul as well.

  • Guy Norred

    I am not sure I think everyone will be saved in the end. It does seem though that one has to know God’s love in order to reject it. I see all around me people who for whatever reason, some I know, but surely much more that no one but God knows, who have been blinded to that love. Perhaps that chasm no one can pass exists, but I cannot believe that the God whose love I have come to know, a just God, would demand an answer from someone at a time when they are blinded in such a way.

  • Mark

    One of the most misunderstood scriptures would have to be “No one can come to the Father except by me.” People immediately conclude being Christian and “verbally” declaring allegiance to Jesus as being the only way to be saved. In other words Jews, Muslims, Buddhists etc and atheists are all lost. Once again the parable of the Good Samaritan reveals two men of religious knowledge failing to know Jesus and a Samaritan who knew Jesus “in the heart” but not words. From the ‘Stations of the cross’ whatever kind deed, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting the imprisoned is done also for Christ because of love. Many Catholics think that there is no salvation outside of it. The error is that catholic means “universal” Scripture tells us “I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.” The Church has a least got this right now. The catechism states the possibility of salvation for all people including atheists. My personal belief is that even animals which often express great love have immortality in Gods love. “Sparrows though two for a farthing yet not one falls to the ground outside our Father.” Universal salvation is for all that express Godly love and do Godly things.

  • Nevertheless, in order for John’s command to have any meaning, we have to be able to understand a connection between God’s love and our own. When John tells us to love one another and love God, he surely doesn’t mean some undefinable, mystical, philosophically transcendent concept such that I might go off and ordain an earthquake. Or, less comically, cause something tragic to happen to someone today while giving them flowers, tomorrow.

    I think where your point gains some traction is in the sense that, if God does in fact ordain plagues and despotism (Ben would say He does not do these things), then we should entertain the notion that God can be love and do things we’d normally think of as unloving. I’m not sure eternal torment is in the same ballpark as a hurricane – it’s sort of like saying someone is capable of murder because you’ve seen them squash bugs – but I get your core idea.

    Personally, I think the fact that the traditional doctrine of Hell is virtually nonexistent biblically gives us a surer way out. I understand your objection, though – I just think all those trappings of God’s love being fundamentally absurd does not square with the way biblical authors talk about it. “Since God is love, you should love one another, although I have no idea what that could possibly mean given the existence of typhoons.” It doesn’t seem to mesh.

  • Questioning

    Thanks for the comments Ronny. My beliefs in this area have never really crystallized enough for me to even be able to verbalize them. I just chalk it up to another of those things I do not know, and cannot know. I do like the universalist approach the best, for obvious reasons. :>)

  • RonnyTX

    Questioning to Ronny:
    Thanks for the comments Ronny. My beliefs in this area have never really crystallized enough for me to even be able to verbalize them. I just chalk it up to another of those things I do not know, and cannot know. I do like the universalist approach the best, for obvious reasons. :>)

    Ronny to Questioning:
    You’re welcome. :-) And a real good webpage on Christian universalism, is tentmaker.org. And I won’t say I agree with them 100% on everything; but then I don’t have to, to agree with them on somethings. And the ones who write for that page, myself and all of us, we shouldn’t expect to know and understand everything yet. For we are still all in the teaching stage. One thing I would add. If you, me or anyone, if we have something we really, really need to understand, then we should simply read the scriptures, asking God to guide us and show us the truth of a matter. And the scripture telling us about that, is in James the first chapter. My, I was so shocked when I first saw that! For I had been brought up in church, falsely taught that what ever my churches’ teaching were and what ever I heard from our pulpit, that had to be the truth and was just as if I was hearing it, straight from God. But, I came to see that, that was not true. And when I came to depend on God a lot more, to show me the truth of a given matter, then I was shocked at the scripture I had been taught to overlook and not even see! And I know I had read some of it and some of it, many times; but when I was taught one way, by some people in church, it was like I couldn’t even see some scriptures, that were just so plain, later on. Well, like I say, that’s what happened to me in church, when I was falsely taught that listening to and believing some people, was one and the same as my listening to and believing God/Jesus Christ.

  • RonnyTX

    Mark to Ronny:
    I know there are those who believe that all souls are ultimately saved including Satan. However I would question the point of it all if this were the case. My understanding of omnipotent is the ability to do anything that is possible, but not to do that which is not possible, And more power doesn’t make the impossible possible. There are some things God cannot do. He cannot give free choice to love him and then punish for refusal then be considered omni-benevolent.

    Ronny to Mark:
    Yes, I believe all creation ,will be brought back into a right relationship with God the Father, by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. And as for as myself, it was God who saved me. You see, I was a Baptist church member for 4 years and thought I was a Christian, thought I had been saved; but then God simply let me know, that I was lost and not in a right relationship with God. My that shocked me! Then God simply led me to a man, who read a portion of scripture to me and as he did, I knew God was also there and God who was holy. And God showed me my sin and led me to repentance. And when I had repented/agreed with God about my sin, the love of God began to pour out upon me. :-) And God simply put a picture in my mind of three crosses and I knew that Jesus Christ was on that center cross, he was there for me and he was taking all of my sins upon himself. These things God showed and proved to me, so that I could be and was born of God. And you see, it makes no sense at all, that what God has done for one and for some, that God would not do the same for all, before all is said and done. :-)

    Mark to Ronny:
    The lake of fire comes across as being symbolic of annihilation. Fire is a metaphor for total destruction and eternal because recovery is not possible. People choose this by their free choice. God cannot then take away that choice simply because his love cannot let go.

    Ronny to Mark:
    Mark, how can a person choose something, when they know nothing about it? And as to fire, actually fire doesn’t totally destroy anything. It does change the things being burnt; but it doesn’t destroy them. Instead, it just changes them to a different state. And God is both love and a consuming fire. So God adds to us, what we need and burns out of us, what needs burning out. God is the one who purifies us, for we can’t do that, for ourselves.

    Mark to Ronny:
    Mat10:28 “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire This is the second death, the lake of fire.”

    Ronny to Mark:
    I will have to look up the exact scripture passage; but in the book of Revelations, we are told that the Lamb will be there. :-) So yes, a lot of people will be going to the Lake of Fire; but the Lamb of God/Jesus Christ will be there with them and that, to bring them to repentance and on faith in him. :-)

    “10 he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, that hath been mingled unmixed in the cup of His anger, and he shall be tormented in fire and brimstone before the holy messengers, and before the Lamb, 11 and the smoke of their torment doth go up to ages of ages; and they have no rest day and night, who are bowing before the beast and his image, also if any doth receive the mark of his name.” Revelation 14:10,11 YLT

    So yes, some people are going to the lake of fire; but note that the Lamb will be there with them. :-) Why will that be torment to them? Because they will be in the presence of pure holiness and have not yet been born of God. But this is just what these people need, just as we all do. For as another scripture tells us, it is the goodness of God, that brings us to repentance. So while it will be painful for awhile, their being in the presence of Jesus Christ, it will end up being, for their ultimate good. :-) For the goodness of God/Jesus Christ, will bring them to repentance and on to faith, in Jesus Christ! :-)

    Mark to Ronny:
    In the parable of the field workers Jesus implied that all of his followers great or not great receive the same reward; paradise! This did not include those who refused work at all. An example was the thief on the cross which demonstrated that salvation is possible right up until death. He was the worker who came at the end of the day. However Lazarus and the Rich man demonstrated that once dead there is a ‘chasm’ through which no one can pass. A death from which even God cannot reclaim.

    “Mat10:28 8Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” I suspect that because God is love it would be illogical if Jesus were referring to God. Satan maybe is the one who seeks to kill people and by leading them astray it can result in the killing of the soul as well.

    Ronny to Mark:
    Mark, the word Jesus Christ used in Matthew 10:28 is not hell; but Gehenna. And Gehenna is simply a valley, just outside and to the southwest of Jerusalem. So in the scriptures, Jesus Christ never spoke of hell. And I will look this up and edit my post a bit later; but in another scripture we’re told, that the last enemy Jesus Christ is going to destroy, is death. And well, when death is destroyed, the only thing left, will be life. And indeed, Jesus Christ gave his life for every person, from Adam on down. On the cross, He took all of our sins upon himself. And as He was being killed/murdered, He even prayer and asked God the Father to forgive those, who were killing him. And that is just how loving and forgiving, God/Jesus Christ is. :-)

    Below, I’ll put the scripture, that tells us, the last enemy Jesus Christ is going to destroy is death. Note also in this scripture,it tells us that the all who died in Adam, will be made alive, in Jesus Christ. :-)

    “20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
    22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthians 15:20,28

  • RonnyTX

    Brandon:
    i’m not a christian but this seems like a no brainer in some cases. for people like hitler stalin pedophile priests they never repented and caused massive pain and suffering to innocent people

    Ronny to Brandon:
    But Brandon, at some point God, the goodness of God, will bring all people to repentance. :-)

    And I didn’t find this out, till I was in my 30’s; but their was a man who molested a niece of mine and this starting, when she was so young, she couldn’t even remember how old she was, when it did start! :-( And it went on, until she was in her teens and off to bible college. Later on, she told me and my Mom, her Grandma, about this.

    Sometime after this, I was working on a job, mowing in a local cemetery. I thought about that man, hated him and wished him dead, as soon as possible. Just as soon as I thought that hate about that man, God reminded me, that Jesus Christ was on the cross for him as well as for me. God reminded me, that Jesus Christ loved that man, just as Jesus Christ loved me. God let me see and understand, that I was not to hate this man, as I had been doing. Yes, I could hate and did hate what he did to my much loved niece; but God let me see, that I was not to hate him. I was not to wish him bad, simply because I hated him. What God taught me that day, was that I could hate what this man did to my niece; but as a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ, I was not to hate the person and wish evil/bad on him. And back then, I was still a Calvinist in belief and not a Christian universalist, so what I prayed, was that the man might be made right with God, before he died. Yeah, God reminded me of how much God/Jesus Christ loved that man and that Jesus Christ had also needed to be on the cross for me as well, there taking all of my sins upon himself. And yes, Jesus Christ was on the cross for every last one of us, from Adam on down. And he took all of our sins upon himself. That is just how much, Jesus Christ loves us, one and all, with no one left out! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Guy to Mark:
    I am not sure I think everyone will be saved in the end. It does seem though that one has to know God’s love in order to reject it. I see all around me people who for whatever reason, some I know, but surely much more that no one but God knows, who have been blinded to that love. Perhaps that chasm no one can pass exists, but I cannot believe that the God whose love I have come to know, a just God, would demand an answer from someone at a time when they are blinded in such a way.

    Ronny to Guy:
    Amen Guy! One would have to know God’s love, in order to reject it. A person can’t reject, what they don’t know. And the great thing to me, once a person personally knows, how greatly they are loved of God/Jesus Christ, they not only don’t want to reject it; but instead, they then just naturally love God/Jesus Christ in return! :-) And that is just how great and powerful, the love of God/Jesus Christ is! :-) And one story I really love, that Jesus Christ told, was about the one lost sheep. The rest in the fold and safe. So, what did the good shepherd do? He went out looking for that one lost sheep, found it, put it on his shoulder and brought it safely home! :-) And that is exactly what Jesus Christ is going to do for us all, before all is said and done! :-) Or as I sometimes put it in song. “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all, see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!” :-)

  • There’s enough hell in this world right now, without having to believe in it in the next world as well!

  • Maura Hart

    if the bible is true as all christians believe, it is “the inerrant word of god” and god says there is a hell and sinners will go there, why would you doubt that one part? you’re so happy to shout about the sinners homosexuals and women who have abortions, so, if there is a hell for them, there must be a hell for all sinners. but, thank goodness, there is no god, the bible is a book of myths.

  • RonnyTX

    Yes Maura, there is God/Jesus Christ and the day you find that out and how greatly they love you, that will be the best day of your whole life. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Amen to that Tony!

  • Maura Hart

    if there is a god,the one the bible describes is a cruel, capricious, whimsical racist murderer. he should love his people a lot less and like them a lot more. i respect your need for a good, but there is no god.

  • RonnyTX

    Maura, I know I can’t prove to you that God exists; but I can tell you that at times in my life, God had directly entered my life. Like at 16 years old, when I was born of God. That is when God showed me my sin, led me to repentance and showed and proved to me, how greatly God/Jesus Christ loved me. :-) And I am just as sure that God/Jesus Christ loves you and loves all people. And there is coming a day, when all will know that, as they are born of God. For some, it will be in this lifetime. For others, it will come after their death and when they are raised from the dead. But whenever it happens for you Maura, at that time you will too know, just how greatly God/Jesus Christ loves you. :-)

    And I will tell you this now. I also do not believe in a Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment. Not since I found out such was not in the bible, as it was written in Hebrew and Greek. I’ll put a link below, to how I more believe now. And I hope you will read more on that webpage as well. It has a lot of good stuff on it and the guy who started it, also used to be atheist in belief.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/FAQ/DoesJesusREALLYLoveLittleChildren.html

  • Well, I know what the point is for me. My circumstances are less typical; I had an experience in which I was apparently given a glimpse into the afterlife. One of the first things I experienced was a welcome, a powerful presence which spoke into me and said one of two things as it showed me everything I have done in life and how it affected others, in such a manner that I experienced it as if I were people outside myself, so that my own subjectivity was irrelevant.

    It said that everyone who enters Paradise is shown this and told one of two things, either “You belong here because of what you did in life,” or “despite what you did in life.”

    I persevere because I was not permitted to remember which one I was told.

  • Mark

    I imagine it being a bit of both despite and because of what we did, since non of us are free of sin. Scripture infers that we will not be held accountable for what we did in ignorance or while we are innocently under the control of evil. For that reason we cannot say that all terrorists or supporters (example) will be lost.
    Your first paragraph could be a true experience meant to guide you. I believe that there have been a few occasions throughout my life where Jesus has spoken to me. And I realize that he has always been there guiding my life. The ‘footprints in the sand.’ are a true allegory. Keep up the faith and trust Sam.

  • Mark

    Rony you have your views and I have mine no use in big debates so I’m not addressing all of it just a few comments. You may well be correct about Universalism but then there goes free choice, we are all captives of God and so what is the point of it all? No offense but those quotes are not revealing anything in support of Universalism to me. Maybe if you could quote some clear scriptures where this could be deduced it would help.

    Rony asks how can someone choose something when they know nothing about it? Gods love is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting the imprisoned. Any kindness is an act of love to God. “Do not seek me in far off places for I am near at hand, your office, workbench, kitchen are all places where you offer love to others. I am with you there.” Luke 10:25-37 The Samaritan didn’t know Jesus Christ but he knew Jesus love in his heart by his compassion. Gods love is revealed to all, some accept some don’t.
    Technically physically fire only transforms but because the object is no longer recognizable it is often used as a metaphor for annihilation. But it is also a metaphor for enthusiasm which can result in some confusion. “On fire with love” I might have to ask some Greek relative how that appears in the Greek.
    Hades, Gehenna and Hell of the damned are all different places. Jesus was warning the Jews about physical death at the hands of the Romans and ending in Gehenna a place outside of Jerusalem. Hades the lower world is the pit or the grave where souls remain until Jesus brought the just to paradise and the unjust await the final judgement. Sleeping maybe???
    Revelation scripture says “before the lamb” You could be right but I’m not getting from that that Jesus is “In the fire”.

  • Scott

    While I don’t believe people go to hell if there is one, there’s a huge variety of beliefs within Christianity. Your comment shows that you’re unaware of this – painting all Christians with the same stroke.

  • Scott

    You sound no different than those who state they know for a fact there is a God. What you are saying is that you do not believe there is a God but you aren’t entirely sure. Well, that is what you’d state if you were being honest.

  • Scott

    Well put.

  • Maura Hart

    so, you believe in 1 god and his 1 bible. that bible written by god says there is a hell. you say no. that’s the thing. christian’s say only 1 god. only 1 jesus, only 1 holy spirit. only 1 bible- sure a lot of different translations though. so if all those are true, how come so many humans have so many different sub sects of christianity. it’s all bogus

  • Maura Hart

    well, i personally think , believe, what ever term you wish to employ that there is no god. i also catergorically reject the god that is mentioned in the bible. he is a charmless, hateful, spiteful, rageful, racist murderer. i don’t even want him for a neighbor.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Quick comments on this.

    Fundies often take one verse or one concept and run with it into particular blind alley conclusions. Anti-fundies often take one verse or one concept and run into wide open pathways to nowhere in particular. Jesus is a particular person about whom particular people who (I believe chosen by God) spoke about him and what he said. The statement about God being love is properly understood in the context of a larger discourse about Jesus the Christ and what it means to believe in him and act like him, to believe in God his Father and to act like God acted toward us, which is to say act toward those who believe in him and in his Son. To abstract an “ontological-ethical” statement from the context in which it was spoken and make it say things beyond what it says in context isn’t necessarily a refutation of a particular kind of fundamentalism, and may be mostly a different kind of fundamentalism. Theological things are rarely as simple as we would like them to be. In the context of I John the love of God has particular meanings that aren’t appropriately applied with absolutely definitive significance beyond that context–which is to say Benjamin’s use of that text out of context probably doesn’t bear the logical freight for which is wishes to use it.

    I personally don’t think ECT is a biblical doctrine or compatible with the teaching or texts of either the Old Testament or the New Covenant. It is neither explicitly stated nor necessarily implied by the texts we affirm as canonical.

    That said, neither do I think that the idea that “God is love” is necessarily in contradiction to the idea (or reality) of God (even through Jesus the author and finisher of the gospel of love) dealing retributive justice to those who perhaps sent innocent persons to their deaths through flames of fire. Even the agnostic or atheist observer should find it equitable for the ones responsible for sending to death those undeserving of death by fire a death by fire themselves. What I am trying to point to here is the lack of coherence of the flow of reasoning from the abstract principle by which Benjamin asserts that since God is love it would be unrighteous to punish anyone by a judgment of the torments of fire. It seems to me that such consequences might be altogether justified at least for some.

    I would suggest that anyone looking for a doctrine of judgement compatible with scriptural teaching might look into various efforts to craft a theological framework along the lines of what has come to be known as annihilationism or conditional immortality. There are version of this line of reasoning from scripture that even include a kind of purgatory for the partially repentant (or something like that).

    In any case, either/or-ing the argument probably won’t get us closer to the truth (as conveyed to us through scripture)

  • Matthew

    If Christian universalism (or any kind of universalism) is genuinely correct, then what of evangelism?

  • Helen4Yemen

    Very well expressed!

  • Dean

    If the determinism of Calvinism is correct, then what of evangelism?

  • Matthew

    These are good questions. Thoughts?

  • Debra B. Stewart

    Amen, brother! As a child, I was taught that only those who believe in Jesus were going to heaven. Even at the age of 6 or so, I thought it wasn’t fair that people who had never heard about Jesus were, according to what I was taught, going to hell. Then I moved to Chicago and met people who were literally living in hell on earth. That’s when I quit believing in a future hell; when I learned to know folks whose lives could only be described as Hades right here and now. Several years ago I read “If Grace is True,” and am at peace with my position on “hell” – it doesn’t exist. Thanks for this piece, Benjamin.

  • Scott

    “that bible written by god says there is a hell.” so many things in that… first, it wasn’t written by god but man. second, do you even care what was written in the original language and what it meant?

  • Phil Feeley

    My favourite theologian, Jacques Ellul, would agree with you.

  • Dennis Gannon

    The churches of the Pharisees and goat herds use the word and
    doctrine of “hell” to obtain converts via fire insurance prayers. The two words mistranslated as “hell” are hades and gehenna. They are TWO DIFFERENT PLACES. Christian Universalists can easily trump the strawman of
    eternal torment, but they seem to have almost nothing to say to the third
    position, that of the Annihilationists or Destructionists.

  • Hmm… I’d take it like “Just because one believes that pain or a ‘hell’ is ultimately temporary doesn’t mean it’s not worth warning people about.”

    Two days of vomiting and Hershey-squirts are survivable by most people, but it still means that the most loving thing you can do for a friend is to warn him not to eat the sandwich with expired mayo and dubious meat products.

  • Snooterpoot

    One of the things that really bothers me about the concept of hell and eternal suffering is the absolute glee some Christians seem to have when they are judging who is to be punished.

    It makes me terribly sad, and terribly angry. Having grown up in a hellfire and brimstone Southern Baptist Church, I witnessed first hand the venom people expressed about others – about people of whom they disapproved, not of whom God disapproved. Personally, I don’t think God disapproves of anyone. I think if he did then his essence of pure love wouldn’t exist.

  • Spot on. Yes, it’s scary to see the venom, especially when I remember that I used to think like that too – if not with so much overt venom. But yes, I used to think that people were deliberately rejecting the Gospel (as preached by Tony, of course!) and therefore is jolly well served them right where they ended up.

    Thankfully, I have been set free from all that – but it toook 15 years of detoxing from church stuff for it to happen.

  • Dear God, there’s some sickos quoted on there. I too couldn’t finish it. But you do get the impression they enjoyed writing what they did. And there are people like that walking around in society these days, free men, enabled to continue this tripe. Is it any wonder the unbeliever stays away from the church?

  • Bones

    What is evangelism then?

  • Bones

    “but they seem to have almost nothing to say to the third
    position, that of the Annihilationists or Destructionists.”

    Huh…..

    Except for when the Annihilationalism and Destructionism actually refers to events in Jesus’s own time eg the Destruction and Annihilation of the Temple or Jerusalem.

    Follow me and don’t join the path of violent insurrection but of passive resistance…..

    Why would God create people just to snuff them out?

  • Matthew

    I think evangelism is supposed to be the living out of the Gospel in word and deed. I´m thinking Matthew 28.

    I´m not saying it´s the tract handing out king of evangelism, or even the fire and brimstone kind, but something inspired by the Holy Spirit that calls people to believe in and follow Jesus.

  • Bones

    Thought it might have something to do with bringing good news to the poor, sight to the blind, releasing the captives, proclaiming the year of the lord’s favour.

    You know stuff you don’t hear from the standard you are separated by God because of your sins and need to accept Jesus as your personal lord and saviour.

    I think equality and justice is evangelism.

  • Matthew

    I agree Bones, but as you already know on this topic I´m both/and rather than either/or.

  • Seabeacon

    They love having a religion where god smites their perceived enemies. Generally fundamentalists have had early trauma regarding an authority figure(s), so they want divine retribution.

  • Snooterpoot

    Or, fundamentalists are indoctrinated from an early age and are rigidly and well trained to carry this belief.

    I was often in trouble for asking questions; children shouldn’t question their elders after all. I have told this story before, but when I was twelve years old and the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham was bombed some friends and I were crying because of the four little girls who died. A deacon walked up and asked us why we were so upset, and when we told him his response was, “I don’t know what y’all are so upset about. It was just four little n*****ers who died.”

    He was a member of the KKK. I’m guessing at least 90% of the adults in that church knew about that, yet he kept getting elected to the board of Deacons year after year.

    I was fortunate to begin an internal process of breaking off from that theology when I was that young. I had to keep my mouth shut, and I knew my questions would not only go unanswered, but probably punished, but I kept on thinking about what I was seeing people do, and the hatred that was so abundant. It just didn’t make sense to me.

    There’s a song in the musical South Pacific, “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught,” that speaks directly to how easily children are indoctrinated into hatred. I think of that song a lot right now.

    http://www.rnh.com/videos.html?video=131&gallery=171

  • Seabeacon

    Ugh. Sad, isn’t it?

  • Snooterpoot

    Yes, indeed it is.

  • Maura Hart

    No. Because its all myth and metaphor and lies.

  • Maura Hart

    You say you were born. So does Jimmy Bakker. So does pat robertson. So does the trumpster president. So did george bush , and they can SAY anything, post anything. It would only be your actions over time that would convince me