25 Views on Hell? 2 Questions to Reframe the Debate

25 Views on Hell? 2 Questions to Reframe the Debate February 5, 2016
25 Views on Hell? 2 Questions to Reframe the Debate

The Christian church has always agreed that there will be a final judgment of the living and the dead. This judgment leads to blessing for those who are in Christ (the righteous), along with punishment1 for those who are not in Christ (the sinners). In today’s vocabulary, the common word for that punishment is hell.

Though the church agrees on the reality of hell, it has never agreed on the nature of hell. From the earliest Christians on, at least three major views have always been present: eternal conscious torment (also called “infernalism” or “traditionalism”), annihilation (also called “conditional immortality” or “conditionalism” or “terminal punishment”), and universal reconciliation (also called “universal salvation” or “universalism”).

I’m going to argue that these three classifications, while helpful to an extent, are insufficient to adequately describe the diversity of opinion within the Christian tradition regarding the nature of hell. Furthermore, I’m going to argue that these three views exist primarily in answer to the same question, but that a different and more important question should have been asked first.

Let’s first consider the fundamental difference between the three major views. As I stated above, each view provides a different answer to the same implied question: “What is the duration of the punishment?”

Eternal conscious torment answers, “The punishment, which is an ongoing process, will continue for all of eternity.” Annihilation answers, “The punishment, which is destruction, will not be reversed for all of eternity.” And universal reconciliation answers, “The punishment, which is an ongoing process, will come to an end once the individual repents.”

But we already have a problem, as (at least) two possible answers remain.

While many annihilationists would say that a person’s fate is sealed at death (we’ll call this “inescapable destruction”), some would say that people are still able to repent after death—thus offering additional possibility for escape from the punishment of destruction (we’ll call this “escapable destruction”).

And while many universalists feel assured that everyone will be saved in the end (we’ll call this “assured escape”), others believe that the process of punishment in hell allows for the possibility of escape but does not guarantee it (we’ll call this “escapable process”).

For consistency with these other views, I’m now going to refer to the answer of eternal conscious torment as “inescapable process.”

To review, we’ve now moved from three views of hell, to five views of hell, giving the following answers to the question, “What is the duration of the punishment?”

  • Inescapable process: “The punishment, which is an ongoing process, will continue for all of eternity.”
  • Inescapable destruction: “The punishment, which is destruction, will not be reversed for all of eternity.”
  • Escapable destruction: “The punishment, which results in destruction, may be reversed if the individual repents.”
  • Escapable process: “The punishment, which is an ongoing process, may come to an end if the individual repents.”
  • Assured escape: “The punishment, which is an ongoing process, will come to an end once the individual repents.”

So now we have five views—all different ways to answer one question. But again, I don’t believe this is the most important question we should be asking. I’m much more interested to know, “What is the purpose of the punishment?”

This should be the first question we ask because it gets to the heart of who God is, what he is like, and how he carries out justice.

Does God enforce retributive justice—the requirement that sinners pay for their sins? Or does God believe in restorative justice—the desire to heal sinners from their sins? Or does God simply allow people to make their own choices and to reap the consequences thereof? Or is it a combination?

There are (at least) five ways to answer the question, “What is the purpose of the punishment?”

  • Retributive: “The punishment is applied because sinners must pay for sins.”
  • Retributive but healing: “The punishment is applied because sinners must pay for sins, but it is also intended to bring about healing.”
  • Healing: “The punishment is applied because sinners must be healed from sins.”
  • Consequential but healing: “The punishment is self-inflicted as a natural consequence of sins, but it is also used to bring about healing.”
  • Consequential: “The punishment is self-inflicted as a natural consequence of sins.”

As I said, this is the more important question because it has to do with the nature of God himself. Those who answer that the punishment of hell is in some way retributive have a drastically different picture of God from those who reject the notion of retributive punishment.

In my mind, this is the real dividing line in the discussion about hell. Does God demand retribution? The debate surrounding the duration of punishment pales in comparison.

In our discussion on the nature of hell, we now have 5 views on the purpose of the punishment, multiplied by 5 views on the duration of the punishment, equaling 25 potential views on hell.

If we wanted to classify each view, it might look something like this:

  Retributive Retributive but Healing Healing Consequential but Healing Consequential
Inescapable Process RIP RHIP HIP CHIP CIP
Inescapable Destruction RID RHID HID CHID CID
Escapable Destruction RED RHED HED CHED CED
Escapable Process REP RHEP HEP CHEP CEP

Some of these variants (RHIP, RHID, HIP, HID, CHIP, and CHID) are unlikely to find supporters due to a logical dilemma. If the punishment of hell is intended to be healing, why would there be no chance of escape? But then again, whole branches of Christian theology have been built on logical contradictions, so I can’t rule out the possibility that someone might try to make sense of them.

But let’s look at some examples of known views on hell to see where they fit in this classification.

Eternal conscious torment is generally viewed as retributive with no chance of escape, so it would be RIP. (Ha!) By contrast, the dehumanization view of folks like N.T. Wright would agree that hell is eternal and inescapable, but the process of dehumanization is just a natural consequence of rejecting God, so it would be CIP.

I’m actually not positive whether Wright believes it possible to reverse dehumanization, but some from that persuasion do, so that would be CEP. On the other hand, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce not only offers the possibility of escape, but it also presents God as actively seeking people to bring them out from hell, so that would be CHEP.

Many annihilationists believe in an inescapable destruction, but opinion is split over whether that destruction is retributive, which would make it RID, or simply the consequence of rejecting one’s source of life, which would make it CID.

Universalists generally understand the purpose of hell to be healing (or purifying or restorative). While some are convinced that all will be saved, which would be HAE, others remain unsure that absolutely everyone will repent, which would be HEP.

I’m no expert on Catholic theology, so I want to speak tentatively here, but my understanding is that they view purgatory2 as a place of paying for sins and ultimately being cleansed from them. If my understanding is correct, that would make it RHEP.

For one final example, I’m going to quickly walk through my own current understanding of hell,3 briefly demonstrating why I answer the two questions the way that I do, and classifying my view accordingly.

“What is the purpose of the punishment?”

I must immediately eliminate any form of retribution from my understanding of hell. There are three main reasons for this.

  • Retribution is not how God does justice. Though retribution was permitted for a time (Exodus 21:23–25; Leviticus 24:19–20; Deuteronomy 19:21), Jesus brought it to an end (Matthew 5:38–42). Likewise, Israel’s sacrificial system was built largely around the idea of retribution via substitute, but Jesus sided with the prophets who taught that God never wanted sacrifices, only mercy (Hosea 6:6; Jeremiah 7:22; Matthew 9:13; 12:7).
  • Even if God did administer retributive punishment, there would be no need for it in hell, because Jesus has already paid the full price of redemption for all people. His sacrifice on the cross was for everyone (1 Timothy 2:6; 4:10; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:2).
  • God’s desire is for all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). To suggest that God’s desire will be thwarted because he is bound by retributive justice is to suggest that retribution is a power greater than God. God is bound by nothing but love, for he is love (1 John 4:8).

So if God does not send people to hell for retribution, why will anyone go there? I believe that we send ourselves to hell. To move toward God is to move toward life; to move away from God is to move toward death.

God’s love is an unquenchable fire, intended to refine and purify us. In the resurrection and the judgment, God’s love will be poured out in full measure on everyone. But those who fight against God’s love, clinging to their impurities, will be unable to experience his love as intended. The hell we face is one of our own making.

But at the same time, because God does desire to save everyone, I am convinced that he will continue actively seeking the lost for as long as any hope of repentance remains. God steps into our self-inflicted hell to bring healing.

So in answer to the first question, I would respond, “The punishment is self-inflicted as a natural consequence of sins, but it is also used to bring about healing.”

“What is the duration of the punishment?”

As I stated above, I believe that we send ourselves to hell but that God will continue seeking to save us for as long as any hope remains. This means I must rule out any view of hell as inescapable.

If hell is escapable, then two questions remain. Is escape assured? And if not, what will happen to those who never repent?

On the one hand, the New Testament is filled with passages that offer hope for the ultimate reconciliation of all people (Romans 5:18–19; 1 Corinthians 15:28; Philippians 2:9–11; Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:19–20). On the other hand, both testaments are filled with warnings of destruction for those who reject God (Malachi 4:1; John 3:16–18; Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Hebrews 10:27). Rather than using one set of passages to explain away the other, I want to acknowledge that both sets teach very real possibilities.

As much as I’d like to affirm the ultimate reconciliation of all, the warning passages keep me from certainty. But no matter how strong those warnings may be, the other passages allow me to hope. And given the reality of human free will, this is exactly what I’d expect—real possibility in either direction.

If people continue on the path away from God and toward death for long enough, I believe it is possible for them to bring about their own complete destruction. But I am hopeful—in the strongest sense of the word—that the God who seeks to save the lost will bring everyone to repentance before anyone can reach that point of destruction.

So in answer to the second question, I would respond, “The punishment, which results in destruction, may be reversed if the individual repents.”

My view of hell would thus be classified as CHED.

What about you? What is your understanding of hell? How would you classify it here? What are some other known views on hell, and how would they be classified?

1 The word punishment can itself be somewhat problematic. Some would say that it is a poor translation for certain Greek words, such as kolasin in Matthew 25:46. For the purpose of this article, I am using punishment simply because it is the word that has traditionally been used in our English New Testaments.

2 I do understand that purgatory in Catholic theology is not the same thing as hell. I’m drastically oversimplifying something I don’t fully understand to offer one additional—albeit very tentative—example. Probably not my best idea.

3 Note that I am providing an overview of my understanding, not a defense thereof. I’m not trying to prove my perspective; I’m just explaining it. The scripture references I include are simply that—references. They are not intended as standalone proof texts, and they should not be read as such.

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  • Eric

    I appreciated your analysis here, and while I’m not sure the truth can be so clearly known and defined, I end up in a similar place to you. I think the keys are God’s character and correct understanding of the meanings of the words used in the New Testament – both of which seem to me to lead away from the more conventional view. Thanks.

    • If I come across as dogmatic in what I believe about hell, it’s unintentional. I am dogmatic that God is not retributive and that he wants all to be saved. But the rest beyond that is just my own way of working through the specifics. I’ll be the first to say that I’m probably wrong about a lot of it.

      • doulos41

        That’s where your view doesn’t (IMHO) fit the definition of universalism–the dogmatic affirmation that there will be no hell that is of lasting duration because all will be reconciled.

        It is “hard” universalism, not any variation or working-through, that seems to me to be potentially heretical.

  • Billy North

    Thanks Chuck . Very detailed analysis. 🙂

    Two comments :

    1. I would like more elaboration on the translation of the Greek word we traditionally translate as judgment. The word judgment we use has the connotation much more of a legal and forensic use .

    2. Also there is no Greek word we translate for hell that has the meaning that we utilize it for . Jesus uses the Greek word Hades only a couple of times and the rest of the time he uses Gehenna which is a geographical place . Also if hell is such an important concept it’s interesting that Paul doesn’t use either of these words nor the concept once in any of his letters .

    So it appears to me that the concept of hell is a just a Christian construct.



    • Thanks, Billy.

      On judgment, there’s definitely a diversity of opinion about what it means. All who affirm at least the Apostes’ Creed agree that there will be a judgment. The question is what it will look like.

      In today’s language, it definitely has acquired the legal or forensic connotation you describe. This is, I think, unfortunate. I won’t get into all the debate, but here’s my understanding.

      The judgment means bringing the truth to light and exposing deceptions for what they are. The works of the flesh will be exposed as wood, hay, and stubble. The works of the Spirit will be shown to be gold, silver, and precious stones. Additionally, our own eyes will be opened to the true nature of God. All the misconceptions we’ve had about him will be replaced with the truth of Jesus.

      And then, once the judgment has brought the truth to light, refinement and purification may begin. The question is whether individuals will accept the reality God’s judgment brought to light, or whether they will cling to the deceptions they’ve treasured for so long. That choice will define how they experience God’s love.

      As for the word hell, I could take it or leave it. But all Christians believe that there will be some sort of negative experience for those who reject God. That negative experience, whatever it might look like, is what I mean here when I use the word hell. If you prefer a different word for that concept, by all means use it. 🙂

  • Dave

    My stance is HoIPD (not on your chart)

    Purpose of punishment: holiness – sin is destroyed because God is holy

    Inescapable partial destruction. My anthropology is that humans are spiritually composite creatures even though uniform in identity. I think the sinful parts of our souls are destroyed and if there’s anything left over (put there by Christ) that’s the basis of our newly renovated and now immortal soul.

    • I’m going to rephrase what you’ve said to see if I’m understanding your view accurately. Let me know if I get this right.

      I think you’re saying that everyone will pass through the same refining fire of God. Everything that is not of God will be burned up, but everything that is of God will be purified and made whole. Many people will have something there for God to salvage, but some others will have so rejected God that nothing will remain. I’m also taking it you see death as the cutoff point for acceptance or rejection of God.

      Assuming all that is correct, the refinement process that you describe as God’s holiness sounds to me like it is a healing process (even if motivated by holiness). The intention is to strip away the sin so that what remains will be whole, healthy, and in right relation with God. However, that same healing process may result in destruction for those who have no part in Christ at all. And assuming they do have no part in Christ, hell for them will be inescapable.

      So I think I would call your view HID. Which is interesting, because I originally surmised that such a view would be logically incoherent, but in this framing, I can see how it might work.

      But then again, I could be totally misunderstanding you.

      • Dave

        Yes, that’s about right, but for those who have nothing at all redeemable (if they exist), then there’s nothing “healing” about total destruction, so that’s why I switched the emphasis off the man and onto God like that by emphasizing the Holiness of God

        • Dave

          If you’re okay with links, here’s my view in more detail.


          If that’s not kosher, just delete this comment.

          • Sure thing! No problem with links as long as they’re relevant to the discussion at hand. 🙂

  • Jeremy Legg

    Yeah, but… Where’s the actual biblical teaching on this? By which I mean: the parts in which the Bible actually talks about hell, not the bits we would like to apply because they appear to favor our point of view.

    Luke 16:26 very clearly tells us that nobody gets out of hell, and places the emphasis on repentance in this life.

    God may be wanting all men to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth, but this does not mean that all will be saved (in the same way that it’s God’s will for all of us who are married to be good husbands or wives, yet not everyone will!). He has still left the choice to us – see John 3:16-18. And some will clearly be damned, as Revelation 20:11-15 shows (and that in a burning lake of sulfur which is only ever defined as eternal – there are no references to it being temporary. See also Jesus in Matt 25:46).

    The argument about retribution also appears to be a red herring, at least in the terms in which it is defined in this article (law graduate speaking here). God is not punishing people in hell with a view to reforming or redeeming them. It is the final place of abandonment and punishment for those who have rejected God and his plan of salvation through Christ Jesus.

    I am not particularly certain that Jesus did away with retributive justice so much as emphasising forgiveness. In Matthew 5:25-26 he talks about people being cast into debtor’s prison, and does not argue that the law should be changed so the the debtor goes free. Justice in society is still upheld by both Paul and Jesus – but the personal aspect of suffered wrongs is to be marked by forgiveness.

    There’s more but I have things to do. Suffice it to say that I think this is typical of post-evangelical/liberal-ish theology that doesn’t do justice to the Bible’s clear statements.

    Praying we all come to greater clarity and truth!

    • 1: Where is the Biblical teaching?
      He’s just quoted more than 20 texts and passages to support his position.
      People could quote similar amounts to support other positions.
      In the end we are all limited by our ability to interpret ambiguous content based on alternative translation options, e.g. words that mean punishment can also mean discipline, and the word eternal can mean the duration of the punishment, the duration of the effect brought about, or the realm or era of the punishment or its effect.

      2: Luke 16:26 is a contextual phrase inside a parable that questions culturally held views about who God blesses and why. That detail could be borrowed from commonly held belief, or even part of what Jesus wishes to undermine, rather than stated as irrefutable doctrine.

      3: A discussion on eternal judgment doesn’t reflect on society’s responsibility to judge and punish in order to maintain the cohesion and fairness of the community, in Jesus’s day or ours.

      4: You seem to end up by saying that you are praying that we all come to greater clarity and truth, in line with the traditional view which you hold, which is correct.
      So you’re actually praying that everyone else would become as theologically correct as you already are.
      The article is rather more speculative, open minded and honest about the Biblical content and the possible interpretations, while ending on a clearly stated proposed conclusion, which seems more humble and realistic than your defence of Evangelical received wisdom.

      I think it’s an excellent article.

      Praying we all come to greater honesty and openness about the limits of our ability to have total clarity about all truth.

  • What I always find interesting in discussions about afterlife punishment is that rarely if ever do people consider the ramifications of their viewpoint on that, towards a view on afterlife reward/life. For instance, some folks will go into huge greek studies to prove that “eternal” punishment is not eternal, but then, if that’s the case, what does that mean for “eternal” life?

    • Andrew Bernard Kanonik

      Heather, I understand your concern completely, I also did think exactly like this myself however, I have come to understand eternal life to mean exactly that as I am sure you would agree, we receive it at the resurrection because of our faith in Christ being born from above.

      Likewise I believe eternal punishment is eternal, meaning the penalty is eternal and not that the person who receives the penalty is being consciously torment/punished, I would say as I understand the unbeliever is totally destroyed although I am still open to further understanding.

  • Tom

    I always recommend looking at the work of Edward Fudge as he has written three books on this subject. There was a movie made about him and his work called Hell and Mr. Fudge. One Book Hell a Final Word rocked my view and actually made me convert to what is commonly called conditionalism as opposed to eternal conscious torment or ECT. Brother Fudge was commissioned to take a year to do an in depth study, and this by a man who was studying Greek at 6 yrs of age. Universallism is out of bounds as I read Scripture. This is a very important topic as it reflects so much on the character of God. Also in the presentation of the Good News of the Kingdom I don’t see any examples of the preaching of Hell Fire. Even John the Baptist who warned them about fleeing the wrath to come didn’t employ the rhetoric of hell fire for eternity. See http://www.rethinkinghell.com for further debate and some good articles.

    • Andrew Bernard Kanonik

      I agree on Fudge Tom, such a lovely, humble brother and has helped me understand the Conditionalist point of view more than most.

  • In C.S Lewis’ book The Great Divorce characters are persuaded to opt to leave purgatory for the New Earth, not to leave hell. Unlike Tolkein Lewis was Protestant so didn’t actually believe in purgatory, he merely used it as a device.

    • Fair enough. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, so I could be off on the details.

      • doulos41

        You weren’t off. Lewis himself waffles on whether the place they are escaping could also be called “purgatory,” but he clearly says that it is “hell.” The whole book is imaginative (not doctrinal), but at the doctrinal level Lewis is clearly saying that if hell is inescapable, it is because we lack the ability to want to leave–NOT because God locks us in.

        (In his most explicit explanation, he says that for those who ultimately choose God, all suffering up to that point is in retrospect “purgatory” and even in some sense “heaven” since it has been a blessed path toward blessedness–but that for those who ultimately reject God, all suffering and even pleasure up to that point is in retrospect “hell” since it has been a cursed path toward cursedness.)

  • Steve D

    I, too, have done a lot of thinking about hell; who goes there, how long it lasts, etc. I know the various views and such and the discussion above is quite interesting. I am no Greek scholar and cannot speak to whether “eternal punishment” means just that or some other iteration of same. But what is a real sticking point for me is the idea that punishment in a sentient being will go on for all eternity based on sins committed over a finite period of time here on earth. I would hardly think that anyone would condone a judge for sentencing a 16 year old to life in solitary confinement without parole (or, heaven forbid, the electric chair) for stealing an apple from the grocery store. We are all about “making the punishment fit the crime”. Some will quickly counter that we are 100% vile, worthless worms without any redeeming forensic standing before God on judgment day and that our sins far outweigh the example of swiping apples, but I don’t quite buy that. The 13 year old who drowns on a summer outing without having accepted Jesus as savior in no way deserves an eternity of conscious torment forever and ever. I realize that last statement is redundant, but it is for emphasis. Sure, I don’t have scripture to back up this sentiment, but apparently reliance on scripture isn’t as critical, which is fine by me.
    The belief in hell also ignores the geographic problems of religion. There’s a good chance that people born in Saudi Arabia are going to be Muslim, the Philippines Roman Catholic, etc. Of course, those lucky enough to be born in the Bible belt are essentially home free. Without an equal starting point, why is the punishment so severe for those poor souls born elsewhere? I realize that this is a reason we need missionaries, but still the underlying question remains about the legitimacy of hell as we commonly think of it.
    Scripture does say that it is appointed for us to die once than after that comes judgment. I like to think of judgment as just that: a time when the Eternal Judge assesses our life on earth, what we have done, in Whom we have believed, and then make an appropriate decision which will result, not only in our eternal destiny, but perhaps get us a tad cleaned up in the process. This is a view which C.S. Lewis alluded to when he said it was like being called in for supper after being out playing all day. Have to get cleaned up first. I would like to think the Ultimate Judge will know best how to clean us up, after death, assuming we didn’t quite “get it right” in this life.
    Thanks for a good discussion.

  • Tim Catchim

    Great post!!! This adds so much clarity. Can I suggest the CHEP category could be refined or expanded? For example, I think God will pursue us, but I don’t think the suffering itself brings any healing in an atoning sense. But the suffering can bring us to a point of turning to Jesus for healing. Much like someone suffering from a drug addiction finally checks into rehab. So the healing comes as a result of being united with the doctor, not as a result of the suffering.

    • Thanks, Tim! Yes, I’d say what you describe would fit well within CHEP. If the suffering itself were needed to heal in an atoning sense, I would probably place that more within RHEP.

  • Andrew Bernard Kanonik

    Thank you for this Chuck, once again more insight to a subject of eternal interest among us all.
    I would like to add, the understanding of Hell itself has been a stumbling block for us all at some stage in our Christian understanding of such things however, I hope we will all continue to be open to others viewpoints and act in a spirit of love toward each other even if we differ.

  • Ken Nichols

    Thanks for making this so logical for the more analytical among us. Using this I was able to “scale” each view with the probability I see based on my idea of who God is and what scripture says. My top three are: CHAE, HAE, CHEP.

    Of course, all of this assumes there IS an afterlife where some “judgement” determines our disposition before God.

    I’m beginning to see all of these “judgement” scriptures as having to do with our lives, right here and now, and simply trusting God for whatever comes after death, if anything.

    • Thanks, Ken. Your top 3 are among the next views for myself after CHED. I see the 9 views boxed in the bottom-right corner of the chart as all being closely related and all potentially compatible with the Beautiful Gospel. (All with hope of escape and no retribution.) Not so much the other 16.

  • doulos41

    Nice analysis. I do think you’ve glided over a major problem with “escapable destruction” versus “escapable process”–i.e., does it really make sense to escape destruction rather than simply to avoid it? Everybody (except for the more severe Calvinists) would agree that hell is “escapable” in the mere sense of “avoidable”–i.e., we can repent before hell “starts.” But if hell is destruction, then to repent after hell “starts” seems nonsensical (we are by that time already destroyed).

    This seems to me one of the only comprehensible reasons that God might choose “process” over “destruction”–because “process” leaves repentance and hence escape open (even if it is a miserably long, miserably painful consequential result of separating ourselves from God, and an observer would understandably wonder why God wasn’t putting us out of our misery, especially if our eventual escape is only possible and not assured). But destruction by definition closes off the possibility of later repentance–doesn’t it?

    • I hear what you’re saying, but the “escape” I describe is explicitly after the resurrection. So sure, you could speak of escaping destruction via repentance before death, but that’s just not what we’re talking about here. We’re speaking of the fate of those who died unrepentant, were resurrected, and are thus now facing hell, whatever that is.

      If hell is destruction, then is there a chance for repentance between resurrection and the finalization of that destruction? This is the question being addressed between “escapable destruction” and inescapable destruction.”

      • Perhaps another way of putting this would be to acknowledge that both the “process” views and the “destruction” views could in fact be processes. There’s no reason to assume that the destruction would be a single immediate act. The difference between an ongoing process and a process of destruction is that the process of destruction has a definite end, whereas the ongoing process does not have an end.

        We are, right now, in as much as we are not living according to love, enacting our own processes of destruction. After death and resurrection, this process will continue, either further toward destruction, or back toward love and healing. Destruction, if followed through completely, will have an end, but it may be a process that can be reversed up until the point of no return when the destruction is finalized.

        • doulos41

          I get the complexity. But destruction still posits a “point of no return” and at that point it is eternal (not escapable). So we are sliding that point back, but we aren’t really saying that hell is escapable (simply that hell starts later?).

          On the contrary, “escapable process” really wrestles with the idea that God may allow a soul to hurt itself for eons, never giving up on the choice (to hurt itself) because that also means never giving up on the redemptive possibility (to repent).

          I get that compared to someone who says “death is the very last chance” your escapable destruction really looks like it is giving more chances. But the word “escapable” in “escapable destruction” still means something very very different from a version of hell that continues to be escapable forever, and this difference makes your ideas look (from my perspective) like merely quibbling on when the “point of no return” really starts.

          • Sure, but we’re really just debating semantics here. I’m sure some better terminology could be found, but the point is that what I’ve labeled “escapable destruction” (whatever you might prefer to call it) is distinct from what I’m calling “inescapable destruction.”