What Francis Chan (And His Ilk) Get So Terribly Wrong About Hell

What Francis Chan (And His Ilk) Get So Terribly Wrong About Hell May 21, 2011


This video, released last week and currently gone viral (as of this writing it’s received almost 114,000 views in four days), stars Francis Chan. It’s a commercial for his new book, Erasing Hell: What God Says About Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up, due out in early July. Erasing God is clearly meant as a refutation of Rob Bell’s Love Wins.

Slickly produced by David C. Cook, Erasing Hell‘s Christian publishing house, there are a great number of things about this video that I don’t like, most of it having to do with its almost astounding pretentiousness: the all-white, faux-heaven set; the astral, Muzak-from-heaven background music; the posing pretending to be pondering; the fact that it’s all about how Francis is prayerfully writing this book, when the cover of the book itself shows that it was, in fact, written by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. (That “and” is everything. In displaying the name of a book’s co-author, publishers have four choices: don’t show the name anywhere in or on the book; show it only on the book’s copyright page; show it on the book’s cover in such a way that it reads [Author] with [Co-Author]; or show it on the book’s cover so that it reads [Author] and [Co-Author]. “And” signifies maximum involvement of the co-author. In fact — and I know this because I’ve been in book publishing for years, and have myself co-authored five books — if on a book jacket you see and before the name of the co-author, you can pretty much bet that’s the person who really wrote that book. Whether or not that’s true in this particular case, it’s at the very least disingenuous of Mr. Chan to not once so much as mention Mr. Sprinkle’s name.)

But the primary problem I have with this video is that while in every last way pretending to be about practicing love, it’s really about instilling fear. What Chan is really saying here — as subtly as it’s hidden beneath his humble, searching, open-minded attitude — is, “Be afraid. Being wrong about hell has terrible, terrible consequences. It’s not something about which you can afford to be mistaken.” (Hence the very title of the video: “Hell: We Can’t Afford to Get It Wrong.” It can’t get more fear mongering than that.) [Update: It’s now eight days later, and I see they’ve changed the name of the video.]

And this is exactly where he, and every other Christian leader who preaches that hell is real, gets it so extraordinarily and harmfully wrong.

Evangelicals who believe in and preach hell fail to realize that it does not matter whether a Christian is right or wrong about hell. Because every Christian, regardless of their beliefs about hell, is entirely safe from going there.

Christians who believe in hell go to heaven; Christians who don’t believe in hell go to heaven. No Christian argues that. All Christians agree that if you are a Christian—no matter what you believe about hell—you go to heaven when you die. Nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about the proper understanding of hell being a prerequisite for admission into heaven.

I think it’s reasonable to say (and it’s certainly been my experience writing about Christianity for The Huffington Post) that nothing keeps more people shunning Christianity than does the doctrine of hell as a literal place. People just can’t get on board with a God so cruel and unfair that he would condemn to eternal physical torture anyone who, for any reason whatsoever, dies without first believing in him. Most non-Christians don’t see the Christian god as loving and all-powerful. Due primarily to the doctrine of hell being real, they see him as an egomaniacal psychopath. Most find it simply baffling that anyone could believe in a God so insanely punitive.

And so they reject Christianity.

And thusly (according to the evangelical mindset) do they doom themselves to hell.

Now let us take great care to ensure that we’re here employing flawless logic.

If rejecting the Christian God condemns people to hell; and

If a Christian who is wrong about hell goes to heaven anyway; and

If preaching about hell significantly contributes to people rejecting Christianity;

Then why in God’s name would any evangelical ever preach or “sell” hell? There’s no reason to. It can only hurt.

A Christian preaching about the reality of hell is: A. Doing nothing whatsoever for Christians; and B. Significantly contributing to non-Christians remaining non-Christian.

This can only mean that any Christian who preaches about hell being real is broadcasting to the world that he or she cares more about being right than they do about actually saving anyone from hell.

If evangelicals sincerely want to do God’s work, and sincerely want to save people from hell, then they need to either radically rethink their concept of hell, or, at the very least, remain entirely quiet on the matter.

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  • Sara

    Somewhere in my life, I was taught/learned that Hell is something we do to ourselves in choosing to be apart from God. Not a place of fire and brimstone, not a condemnation from God – but like some mentally ill homeless person who can’t abide comfort and care offered and instead wanders off alone.

    Some years ago, I was in downtown San Antonio headed to the Riverwalk. There was a street preacher, Bible tracts in hand, who was confronting people insistently..”are you SAVED? You’re going to HELL if you’re not SAVED!” After watching him totally alienate several people, I approached him and got right in his face.

    “Do you have ANY idea of the damage you are doing??? Do you have any idea how many people you have shouted away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ?? You are driving people away from Christ with your actions here today!”

    Amazingly, he seemed to hear me! He stopped ‘preaching’ and walked away quietly with a very thoughtful look on his face. I hope I gave him something to think about.

  • An interesting theory to be sure. I am not sure if preaching hell “drives” people to hell. It certainly doesn’t help. And even if one responds to such a message, it is certainly out of fear of God, not love. I, for one, think that people should be drawn to his kindness rather than run from his wrath.

    As far as this Christian/non-Christian thing, it depends on who is speaking. Some of the more extreme reformed people I have read say that people who preach a God and Christ who do not send people to hell, don’t believe in the “right” Christ. Therefore, they are going to hell. Rob Bell, for example, will find out hell is real when he goes…at least from what I have heard.

  • Scott

    So THAT’S what happened to that guy…

    Scott (in San Antonio)

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Some would indeed argue via, for instance, Matthew 7:21, that not all Christians necessarily go to heaven. They may then point to their choice of necessary and sufficient dogma for salvation.

    By the way, LOVE the picture!

  • Michael

    I don’t get why people care about this. Hell or heaven, for that matter. It makes no more sense to me than worrying about the Rapture.

    I suppose that, here and there, a few people are scared off from doing bad things by the threat of hell. I suppose that, here and there, a few people do the right thing because they think it will get them to heaven. All that is missing the point. It’s like my being good to my wife in the hopes that I will get lucky tonight. No. Wrong. I’m good to my wife because that’s how you treat someone you love.

  • Suz

    I, too, see Hell as a choice. I see it as the state of a soul who has rejected God. Also, I don’t see it as permanent. Our lives as humans are so short; is the eternal fate of our souls decided solely by our actions during these years on earth? Is Heaven reserved only for those of us who choose it while encumbered by a humans brain and body? That strikes me as very small and very human, not at all divine.

  • Matthew Tweedell

    But what’s the point of love if not that such is heaven’s gateway?

    But indeed, the whole idea of interpreting these sorts of things in a physical, spatial manner is absurd and, other than for artistic rendering, quite foreign to people’s thinking prior to the Age of Reason and the institutionalization of a bias in Anglo-American thought (and, through the British Empire and American hegemony, much of the world’s) that developed into what we now call analytic philosophy (although it was much the same manner of thinking that, when used properly, discovered what really is up there in the heavens above, down there physically beneath the earth, in the temporal beginning, etc.).

  • I never used the word “drive.”

  • Whenever I think about the attitude of people who might say “those who don’t believe in Hell are going there,” I think to the oft-cited John 3:16.


    I’m holding him to that promise of eternal life thing. If he would deny it to me based solely on what I think regarding the fate of other people, it would make him a liar, wouldn’t it?

    Some might tell me to pay attention to the verses just after that, about those that don’t believe being condemmed already, but, to that, I say – “Well, there was a time I didn’t believe, so I was condemned by defintion, right? Yet, now I believe, so I’m not. Same with you, right?” – A state of existance that we’ve all been in… non-believing, then believing… that condemnation didn’t last forever.

    Then again, I’m a questioner and I have my doubts sometimes. Maybe the fact that I sometimes call myself an agnostic Christian is enough to mean I don’t believe hard enough in the “real” Jesus, but, you know… I’d think anyone worthy of following would have to be merciful rather than trigger-happy.

  • Don Rappe

    The reason some people don’t like a metaphorical interpretation of hell is because they know that if hell is a metaphor, than so is heaven. They are right about this. To be pleased with a metaphorical heaven requires more humility than many of us can muster. But, blessed are the poor in spirit for the Kingdom of God shall be theirs!

  • Not necessarily. When a friend showed me the Tentmakers site – all kinds of essays arguing for Christian Universalism, people arguing over original languages and whatnot… the people there assert that while Hell has some more metaphorical language attatched to it in the original languages, Heaven does not…. or, at least I remember that Heaven had the more “permenat” language in reference to it while Hell had the more “temporary” or “unspecified period” language.

    I’m fine and dandy with Hell being metaphorical, but Heaven? No. If Christinaity is just Atheism with the Jesus, I might as well become an atheist. Then probably kill myself because unlike the strong-minded atheists of the world, I am a rather weak being who craves eternity and feels like life is meaningless unless there’s some kind of going-on, reincarnation, or SOMETHING. Right now, I know I might be wrong, maybe there’s no Heaven, but I like to tell myself the fairytale to give me some hope that this…. plot of my life… will have some resolution. If there’s no meaning, I don’t want to keep existing another 50 years thinking about how there’s no plot, no point, no resolution.

    With me, it’s eternal life or no dice.

  • Maria

    I have always wondered how people who “preach” about hell, burning in it, avoiding it, and Satan who tempts one to it, don’t see that all of their focus/worship time is not being placed directly on God. Once you tell Satan to get behind thee you aren’t supposed to turn around, walk backwards and keeping your eye on Satan rather than facing forward and looking towards God. Of course, my beliefs in no way match up to the evangelicals or other fundamentalists’ belief systems. If it works for them, fine, but it doesn’t work for me.

    It also makes me think of an old joke about a (insert any group’s name) preacher who died and went to heaven. Peter greeted him at the gate and welcomed him into heaven. There were beautiful mansions and the air felt soft against his skin. As he walked down the road with Peter, the preacher listened to the heavenly choirs which filled his ears with beautiful music. Finally, they came to the end of the road and a beautiful mansion that had only one door and no windows. The preacher was horrified and he told Peter so, “I don’t want to be here. If I am in this mansion, I’ll be cut off from the community of Heaven. I want to be part of Heaven.”

    Peter answered, “Oh, but we thought from all of your preaching that your way was the only way into Heaven meant that you’d rather not be with all of the others who made it here, but didn’t follow your teaching. We were just trying to make you happy.”

  • charles

    in a polar system Hell is the anti-heaven. It is specifically described in the old and new Testament, and I would say removing it makes things even MORE confusing to the non-Christian. If Jesus didnt die in order to save us from eternal separation from God (Which may very well be “hell”)…. what DID he die for?

  • Don Rappe

    “How blest are they who know their need of God; the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs”. That’s beatitude numero uno in Mathew, the first Gospel. Sounds like you, doesn’t it? I certainly don’t think Christianity is just atheism with Jesus. I too require some meaning to support my will to exist. I have bookmarked the site you mention and will look at it in the future. I structure my personal hope of eternal life around my perception of the Living God. For me, all meaning is metaphorical. E.g., the metaphors of “the electron” and “spacetime” help me give meaning to Maxwell’s equations. I do not mean to imply that heaven (or hell) are less real than these other concepts. Their difference is that one set is physical concepts and the other is spiritual concepts. In both cases, the reality can often seem paradoxical to us. In Euclid’s great study of spacetime “The Elements” he uses the word logos in his development of the theory of ratio and proportion. He uses it for what we call now “ratio”. In John, the fourth Gospel, the word is identified with Jesus. I like to understand it as “In the beginning there was Meaning, and the Meaning was with God.” etc. Meaning is, for me, what all spirituality or religion is about. The criticism of the concept of hell is rightly about it’s meaning. IMHO

  • Hmm. Maybe one could say that is exactly what he died for but… it worked! As in, it worked for everyone – some just may take longer to realize the depth of that love than others.

    Just a guess. I’m no scholar or anything.

  • charles

    I think that is an unknown actually Shadsie…. I will agree however that the deal isnt done until the fat lady sings…. However God rescuing those beyond the grave is a somewhat controversial theology…. I dont know personally, noe do I have a particular view in it. But I would say that the attraction of “Heaven” would be substantially diluted if there was no opposite place.

  • connie

    Hell is not what keeps us from becoming Christians. Christians keep us from wanting to be Christians.

    The lack of belief in science & rational thinking, the lack of loving behavior towards others who do not believe what you do. The judging. The damning,. The threats. And my favorite, the lack of correcting your radicals. Christians keep people from wanting to be be Christian.

    I don’t care a whit about your Hell. Who does but Christians. That isn’t even on the board. If you want people to join you in anything, behaving honorably and with conscience will be a good place to start.

  • I certainly don’t think there’s a free pass. I know from my experiences with life that a person can “choose Hell” for themselves and be in it for as long as they want to be/refuse to accept help. I like to hope that it’s not forever, though.

    As for me, personally? Oblivion works as a bad alternative to Heaven. There are a lot of people who (say they) don’t fear it, but I think they’re probably not really thinking hard about the implications of “nonexistance.” They tell themselves “it’s like sleep.” Yeaaaaah right. In sleep, you get to dream, or feel a soft warm darkness. Oblivion? Nothing we can imagine since it’s well, nothing. Sometimes, thinking about such implications – I honestly fear a tradtional Hell less just because Hell is a something rather than a nothing. I don’t need Hell to motivate me to want to get to Heaven – I need Nothing!

  • Dan

    With all due respect, I think this post misses the point on a number of levels. Let me begin, however, with a positive note: I get what you’re going for. Hellfire preaching really is a big turn-off, not just to non-Christians but to many Christians as well. A lot of churches and preachers seem to think that they can use fear of hell to scare people into heaven, which just doesn’t work. Mostly it’s a turn off and creates Christians with a messed up, escapist view of the afterlife.

    Still, there are a number of levels on which I respectfully take issue with your post.

    For one, this notion that preaching hell sends people to hell is inaccurate and a huge generalization. To begin with, SIN is what separates people from God and, if not dealt with, can send them to hell (but I’m sure you’re well aware of this). Preaching hell can do all sorts of things – it can turn people off from the Christian message, it can scare the crap out of people, it can be interesting, it can be done in a hope-filled way which points others to Jesus, it can divide the church, etc. It’s all in how hell is taught and talked about. One thing which taking about hell certainly cannot do, however, is send people to hell. That’s just silly.

    If anything’s really turning people away from the Christian message, it’s Christians who are un-Christ-like. By that I mean Christians who lack grace and are judgmental, out of touch, and/or elitists. Which brings me to my next issue with your piece. You write:

    “But so what if the Christians who don’t believe in hell are wrong? They still end up going to heaven, don’t they? … All Christians go to heaven. No one argues that. (Or, if they do, they sure don’t via anything in the Bible.)”

    It’s this kind of elitism, the belief that “all Christians go to heaven,” that can really turn people off from our faith and which also proves toxic for the spiritual lives of believers. It falls short of two levels.

    First, nowhere in the Bible will you find the phrase “all Christians go to heaven,” or anything like it. Religious affiliation does not guarantee one’s eternal fate. It was Jesus who said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.” It was his brother James who said, “faith without deeds is dead.” This notion that Christians are somehow guaranteed an eternity of bliss simply because of their being Christians has no basis in the Bible. That garbage comes from Calvin (not the Bible) and not a single Christian believed that way prior to about 500 years ago. This twisted theology has produced a mass of Christians who think they’re okay simply because of the faith they profess. Jesus was clear that the way we live does matter. To quote our Lord again, “the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”

    A second way this notion of all Christians going to heaven falls awry is the very idea of going to heaven. The Bible never talks about going to heaven. The goal of the Christian faith is not to go to heaven. Read Revelation 21 and 22. The good news, my friend, is that heaven comes to earth. The gospel is about entering heaven BEFORE you die, about participation in the Kingdom of God that is right here in our midst, and the hope that the Son of Man will one day return to redeem the earth so that God will dwell here, with his people, on earth. I cannot stress this enough. Our goal is not to go to heaven, it’s to bring heaven here – for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”

    In the meantime, while we await the consummation, the role of Christians is to be ambassadors of Christ. That’s why what we do here on earth (our actions and love for others, what we preach, teach, etc.) really does matter. I cannot tell you how misguided this notion of letting Christians proclaim whatever they want because, after all we’re still getting heaven, really is. If getting to heaven was the only goal of our movement, that might be acceptable. Problem is, Christianity is far more than eternal life insurance, praise God.

    We should be honest about what we believe the Bible teaches. Sin is a real problem. Separation from God is a real threat to our well-being and survival, both in this life as well as the next. (That, by the way, is what I believe Rob Bell’s point is when he talks about the reality of hell). Hell is very real, but so is heaven. We should be clear about what we believe when we preach the good news, whether hell factors into our message or not, and we should always speak truth in love. That’s the real problem that can turn people off from the faith – not enough love from the pulpit.

    But even that won’t land them in hell. Only sin can do that. This is a reality that Christians had better take seriously as well.

  • “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” ~ Jesus, Matthew 23:15

  • Liza

    One of the first comments was from someone that said the reason people don’t become Christians is because of the actions of Christians. Yes, that is correct but the Jim is right as well that preaching Hell is part of it as well. In fact, I will go so far as to say part of the reason some Christians act the way they do is because the way Hell is presented to Christians is that since they already “saved” they have nothing to worry about. So if you have nothing to worry about, you are not thinking about your actions, you got your bases covered. The phrase “so heavenly minded, you are no earthly good comes to mind.” I think as Christians we forget that life on earth is not some cosmic waiting room, where we are just sitting around waiting to go to heaven, we do have a life to live here and a chance to be the hands and feet of Christ while we are here. Two verses come to mind:

    James 2:14: What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them?

    Col 3:17: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

    That’s my two cents!

  • Susan

    Um, I seem to be reading a lot of talk about whether or not Hell is “real”. You seem to be missing the point. John did not say Hell is *not* a “real”. He said that fire-and-brimstone preachers yelling hellfire & damnation at people push folks away from the main message of Christianity.

  • Liza

    Whoops, meant John not Jim. That is what I get from reading too many blogs in the morning!! Sorry.

  • Don Whitt

    Chan strikes me as a con artist. Smooth, always thinking about the next move, lining-up the kill shot.

  • Peet

    There are plenty of hells right here, right now. Let’s get started saving people from those.

  • Maria

    If Jesus didn’t come to this earth and die, to save us from an eternity of separation from God (Hell), then what is the point of being a follower in Christ? If not for hell, we have no reason to become a Christian. We have two choices in this life. We can believe in Christ and accept his sacrifice as our assurance of eternal life or not. If we choose not to, then we go to Hell. To avoid the subject is to live in denial. If there is no Hell then what is the point of it all? This is the worst post I’ve seen from John Shore and has been a complete turn-off as I now doubt his motivations.

  • Kara K

    Writing about whether or not it is ok to poke fun at the people who fell for the rapture gig, Dan Savage gave us this non-Christian perspective:

    “Remember: the Rapture nuts were running around for months predicting that a tiny handful of them would ascend into heaven on Saturday night because God loves them so much. The rest of us—those whom God hates—would be left behind to watch our non-Raptured family members, friends, neighbors suffer and die for a few months before God finally got around to destroying the planet and everyone left on it.”

    “This is bloodlust masquerading as piety—’So long, suckers! God doesn’t love you! Enjoy watching your kids die!’ ”

    The concept of eternal punishment in the fires of hell for non-believers is the same twisted philosophy.

    The good news, the gospel of grace, the personal relationship with a God who loves us so much he sacrificed his son to save us, is lost in the framework. I agree with John, what I believe about hell doesn’t matter a bit. Jesus commanded us to love people, not to threaten them.

  • Mindy

    Hear, hear.

  • Maria,

    This is stick vs. carrot thinking. Also known as dualism: if not this, than this. There are far more ways of thinking about this.

    To suggest that the only reason we become a follower of Christ is to avoid punishment is the same as saying the only reason we are faithful to our spouse is because we don’t want to get into trouble for cheating on them. Is that a true statement? In a healthy relationship it is not.

    Is the only reason we feed our children so we don’t get into trouble with child protective services? No it is not.

    Is the only reason we build friendships to see what we can get out of the relationship? No. not good friendships.

    I Corinthiians 13 tells us we can do a lot of great stuff in the name of God but if we do it for the wrong reason, it’s worthless. Converting to Christianity to avoid hell would be one of those wrong reasons.

    You said, “If there is no Hell then what is the point of it all?” The point, is to be one with the Divine….to have peace that passes all understanding, to live in love, to know in the deepest sense of experiential knowing, also called as gnosis, that you are loved beyond all imagination so completely and unconditionally, that you realize that once you experience this knowing you are so filled with Divine love, filled to the point of overflowing, that you can’t help but pass this love and grace and compassion on to others. This is the love of Christ. This is what it is all about. This is the point of it all. To know this experientially is so fulfilling that you can reach a point of no longer needing there to be a literal heaven in the afterlife because you are already so present with the Divine in your life here and now.

  • Mindy

    So, Maria, the ONLY reason you are a Christian is because you are afraid you might wind up in hell otherwise? That is so very sad. You are exactly the kind of person John is talking about. Christians who believe they are set for eternity while the rest of us suffer, regardless what kind of life we lived, regardless how kind or compassionate or caring or generous we were in life. Nope, didn’t accept Christ, so we burn.

    Not one fiber of my being buys into that. Not one. Not one tiny bit of me fears that will be true. God would never do that. Ever. I do my best to live with empathy, to live as Christ taught, even in all my flawed humanness – because I do believe Jesus was the ultimate in compassion and all that God wants of us. That was God’s message. Live as this man lives, selflessly, compassionately, and you will find your way to Me.

    I’m sad for you that your relationship with God is not your choice. I choose to believe, I choose to marvel with awe at what God has done on this earth and in my life. You, on the other hand, didn’t so much as choose as hedge your bets against the future. I find that disingenuous, actually, but mostly, I feel sorry for you.

  • I cannot believe Francis Chan did this. I’m just shaking my head with as words like: Reactionary. Opportunistic. Owned. bounce around. The heading reading “Hell: We can’t afford to get it wrong” is so unlike him. I don’t know Sprinkle or Cook … maybe that’s their line. And he has be owned? Sad.

  • Maria, I would say that if you think Hell is the point of it all then you have, sadly, misconstrued the message of Christ.

    Its like marrying someone you don’t love just so you can avoid a financial disaster. Sure, disaster averted, but how fulfilling is the marriage?

    Similarly, God desires an intimate, loving relationship with us. He created us to be in community with him and with each other. Love is the point. Love is the ONLY point. I follow Christ because of His love for me, because the greatest peace I have known in my life is when I surrender myself to the love and mercy of God. When I am self-involved, world-involved, I am anxious, fearful, stressed out and too often angry. When I stop and prayfully or meditatively reconnect, I am able to let go of those things that are causing me so much angst and am reminded that no matter who or what else I am, first and foremost I am a child of God. He loves me, yesterday, today, and always.

    Forget hell. Hell isn’t important. Love is.

  • Mindy

    OK, I finally watched the video. All I can say is . . . Ew. I am completely creeped out by this guy. I don’t believe him, I believe he wants to be the center of attention, and has nothing much to offer beyond that. Yuk. Talk about “false prophets.”

    I’m talking about a deep, gut reaction. I was totally creeped out.

    This from someone who has a soft spot for bald Asian dudes.

  • Richard Jones

    I watched this video last night. A few comments on the whole situation. Yes, I think that Francis Chan HAS been a gifted teacher and writer, but he got on this hell bandwagon a long time ago and can’t seem to get off it. At the 2009 National Youth Workers’ Convention in Los Angeles, Chan was one of the featured speakers (this is long before Love Wins). He began to tell a story about his Buddhist grandmother dying and about how he cried and screamed and agonized and begged and pleaded for her to accept Jesus, but she didn’t and so now–right now–she is burning in eternal fire in hell. Seriously, I was concerned for Chan’s mental health at the time. Very soon after Love Wins came out, he publicly made statements about it’s heresy. So, he is invested in this issue big time.

    I will not go to National Youth Workers’ Convention this year simply because Youth Specialties has again scheduled Chan to be a main speaker. They have taken their side in this controversy.

    I think Chan and Piper and probably Albert Mohler (and many, many others) are what I call “orthodoxy bullies”–not orthodox bullies, in that they are orthodox and opponents are not–but bullies who use orthodoxy to get their way, to elevate themselves, to control other people, and to stifle discussion. And I am so tired of the orthodoxy bullies shutting down discourse and attempting to control Christian public opinion and dominating Christian publishing. So tired of it.

    I also watched Chan’s video for his book Crazy Love. What a concept: God loves you so much he is crazy about you! God does crazy things and goes to crazy lengths to demonstrate and communicate that love! It is an awesome message until you get to the end. At the end of the video (of course), Chan added that the only way you can know this love is to accept Jesus as your Savior. For everyone else, the love is not actualized, I guess. Or something. God does something really crazy–he sends the people he loves to hell. That’s crazy love alright.

  • John, one of the many reasons I began following you and your posts is because you give the perspective of an adult non-believer and for that I’m grateful. Please don’t let the off-base arguments of a few dissuade you from continuing along this path.

    On to my point…..From what I’ve read statistically, some 85% of Christians became Christians as children, so they lack the ability to lump themselves into the “I was once where you are and this is why I’m now here” category. It’s this lack of perspective that gives some Christians the “it’s us against them” stance, always working to CONVINCE people to become believers of Christ. Spouting doctrine and perpetuating dogma (true or not) is NEVER the path to helping someone experience God’s love.

    People RARELY make a decision for Christ (or anything else for that matter) based on intellectual terms…. If they did, seminaries and churches would be putting out apologists by the thousands rather than preachers, missionaries and evangelists. Instead, people want to feel that their lives can count for something greater… that the pain they’re going through could serve a larger purpose…. that the things they do mean something to someone…. to know that they’re worthwhile, that they are loved and that their lives count for something.

    Contrary to your findings, the vast majority of the people I encounter who know about Christ and yet have chosen not to follow him is…. they’ve been severely wounded by their past interactions with so-called believers. Either they’ve been hurt, abused, bullied, belittled or abandoned by those who claimed to follow Christ. And, I take it personally that they haven’t had reason to believe otherwise. That’s not to say that Christians don’t sin, but rather that enough of us aren’t out there loving people enough to counteract those who do bad to them. A conversation I had with a friend helped her to see that just because you had a bad experience with one church or with a handful of jerks doesn’t mean the underlying purpose of Christ is invalid. No one would give up food simply because they were sold a bad meal at a restaurant or encountered a verbally abusive waiter or two. There are plenty of loving, wonderful Christians and churches out there…. people just need enough evidence that Christians are not all jerks.

    I’ve studied marketing and sales for enough years to know that there are two reasons people make decisions… it will either solve a problem they have or make them feel good. Yes, there is danger in attempting to make people feel good for the sake of the gospel, but if done correctly (by feeding them, clothing them, loving them, meeting their needs), they will see God in our actions. And if enough of us do it enough times… it will make a lasting difference. Hell or not.

  • jenny

    Shortly and sweetly I’ll just say that it is the message of Hell that saved my life 9 years ago and it was the message of God’s grace that kept me there. I know the very same message that was told to me would completely turn off someone else. There are so many different stories I’ve heard of how people came to want to know whether or not this Jesus was real. Some were motivated out of fear of what would happen if they didn’t, some were motivated out of desperate need for a higher power to guide them, and some, were motivated by the sudden awareness of the reality of God out of absolutely nowhere while sitting in a closet at work (Right, John?)

    So, l am actually thankful that someone told me about hell back then. And I am SO THANKFUL that I will never ever know what the real hell is. I am also scared that my ignorance of the subject keeps me from being concerned for the people I love who haven’t been blessed with faith.

  • Hell is a real place and unbelievers have to realize that GOD doesn’t send anyone there, they send themselves there. Look, you disobey man’s laws, you suffer the consequences, some not too bad (a ticket for example) break other laws and you may face a long prison term. The fault is YOURS, not the judge.

    The central issue of the free salvation in Jesus Christ is his mercy and grace. Mercy is not receiving what we do deserve (penalty for our sin) and grace is receiving what we do not deserve (eternal life). The wages for sin is death, that is not just a physical death but also eternal separation from God, but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. Each and every person is a sinner and deserving of the penalty of sin – death and separation from God. Yet, Christ, who know no sin, became sin for us and died in our stead on the cross, that is the Gospel, Jesus paid the price for the sin of all believers. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life…That is the great mercy, grace and love of God personified in Jesus Christ – he paid the penalty for sinners!!

    Let’s not fool ourselves, fear is a great motivator to obey the laws of society, People fear the consequences for breaking the law, so they obey the law. God has his spiritual laws, you disobey, you pay. It is no different. We have no issue that a person who breaks the law suffers the consequences (we call this justice), but when people break God’s law, it is unjust they have to suffer the consequences? Why?

    The love of God is wrapped-up in His Son, Jesus Christ and the Good News -the Gospel – Jesus Christ died for sinners.

  • I agree, it is the love of God that constrains us (KJV language), but that in no way negates the reality of hell. The Gospel is the GOOD NEWS that God loves sinners. Christians should not shun the truths in the Bible, hell being one of them. Central to salvation is the love of Jesus Christ….

  • There is NONE that does good NO NOT ONE, for ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God…..for all of our righteousness is as filthy rags….comparing ourselves with ourselves is unwise. Mindy, when sinners compare themselves with other sinners, hay we’re not too bad – we’re “kind”, “compassionate”, “generous”, “caring” etc. – but that is not what we’re to do. When we try to “measure – up” to the righeousness of God, we fall short. No one is “good enough” in their own righteousness to merit heaven. We deserve hell, everyone of us, it is the mercy and grace of God – personified in Jesus Christ and his death, burial and resurrection – that saves us.

  • Susan – no their sin nature pushes them away from Christ. It is a persons natural response to hate the Gospel unless the light of His free and sovereign Grace illuminates the sinners heart and mind, it’s not the “doctrine of hell” that pushes them away. By grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God.

  • Holly

    Thanks so much for this post. I was reading all the others, and finding small bits and pieces that I agree with, in “almost” all of them. Thanks for taking the time to write this, and be encouraged that someone else found encouragement in your words.

  • Dan,

    Amen brother – expound on this a bit more and it would make a great sermon!! Thanks….

  • Okay, thot experiment: Everybody try to imagine what it was like in 1960 before there was any empirical evidence that smoking was actually harmful.

    Some people felt smoking was bad for a variety of reasons and tried to warn people about it (I’m thinking in particular of that prudish ol’ fuddy-duddy, William C. Gaines; y’know, the publisher of MAD Magazine…).

    Some smokers take offense at what they feel to be a heavy-handed and/or judgmental attitude on the part of the outspoken non-smokers, especially since there is no empirical evidence against smoking & quite a few people who advocate the beneficial & pleasurable aspects of tobacco (remember this is 1960).

    Question: What is the better moral/ethical choice, to stop warning the public about the dangers of smoking so as not to offend some smokers who seem determined to smoke, or to keep warning the public in the hopes of reaching those smokers who can be persuaded?

  • Connie,

    What kept me and everyone else (inlcuding you) from becoming a Christian is our sinful nature, since we are dead in trespasses and sin. Any other “reason” claimed is simply a red-herring, straw-man argument. Say what you may, sin keeps you from believing…..

  • Do we suffer from such a total lack of understanding of unconditional love in this world that we cannot see it even in the face of the Divine? Must we bend and conform God to our ideas of retributive justice? If we believe in the doctrine of substitutional atonement then we must see that in the death of Christ the price was paid for all. The balance sheet is square.

  • Mindy, no offense intended, of course. Brian is just showing you his Christian love by reminding us how worthless we are. Brian, any chance you go to a Baptist church?

    The doctrine of worthlessness is why I consider fundamentalism spiritual abuse.

    Try this: God loves you. God created you just the way you are. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more than God already does. God isn’t waiting for you to be a perfect servant or good enough, God loves you now. When you experience this unconditional love in your life – when you get it – really understand it – deep down – it is life changing….life giving…..transformative. This is the transformative power of unconditional love embodied in the life and death of Jesus Christ that when shown to others in how we treat one another can turn the world upside down for good. This is the good news.

    Brian – you have focussed on Jesus death. What of God is personified in Jesus life and teaching?

  • Jim V

    Where God is, is heaven. Where God seems not to be, is hell. We separate ourselves from God by what we do and think, because we are not God. the Good News of Jesus is that despite our human failings, God makes us one with God’s self even as Jesus is one with God. So we are rescued from our separation from God, ie. from hell. Hell has been destroyed by God’s presence.

  • Brian, you speak in terms of a post-enlightenment literalism (Marcus Borg language: The Heart of Christianity). Hell need not be a real place for the reality of hell to have powerful meaning in our lives.

  • Christy,

    I have never heard of the “doctrine of worhtlessness”. Realizing you’re a sinner is not to be constued as you being worthless. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotton Son…” is not an action of a loving God to a worthless people. It is a realization that you are undeserving of God’s unconditional love and you have no ability in yourself (by being a “good person” for example) to merit or earn that love. That realization of God’s free grace and unconditional love is indeed life transforming, in fact that can only occur when you’re born again, not of the flesh, but of the spirit.

    I was focussing on the death of Christ because the subject matter of the OP was hell and teh death of Christ paid they price of the penalty of hell fpor all believers.

    But to answer your point, central to the Gospel is the entire work of Christ, from his virgin birth to his bodily ascention into heaven. Christian means to be “Christ like” so Christians are to live as Christ lived, that is indeed central to being a Christian. We are to love God with all thy might and all the soul and all they heart and love your neighbor as yourself for on these two commandments hangs all the law and the profits. Love is the theme indeed.

  • Agreed…

  • Very nice, Jim. Thanks for this.

  • The doctrine of worthlessness is what I learned in 20 years of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church and school. It’s a phrase I coined myself. It sums up your familiar language of: “There is NONE that does good NO NOT ONE, for ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God…..for all of our righteousness is as filthy rags… When we try to “measure – up” … we fall short. No one is “good enough” …. We deserve hell…”

    In the perfect storm of a church, home, school environment devoid of any remote understanding of human psychology it = worthlessness and you spend your life feeling never good enough and being told the same.

    The doctrine of my youth focussed on Christ’s example of sinlessness and perfection which is what we were taught to emulate. Not his compassion. His death was glorified; his life’s example ignored. It is a recipe for an unhappy and disastrous emotional and spiritual life.

  • You agree that hell doesn’t have to be a real place we are sent to as punishment in the afterlife?

  • Christ must be so pleased with how you represent His love in all of your smug, I-know-better-than-you ways.

    The arrogance and sheer asshattery of many “Christians” is what turns people away from anything to do with the Christian faith. Jesus reached out in true lovingkindness to all who needed him, and he took issue with those who claimed to know the will of the Father. Many Christians in today’s conservative/fundie churches are the Pharisees and Scribes of the past, they just have nicer hair and a bigger charge account at Macy’s. You can deny it any way you want, but I guarantee you if more Christians simply went out and offered unconditional love to people the church would see a lot more people wanting to know more about Jesus.

  • I agreed that hell doesn’t have to be a real place to have a powerful meaning in our lives. Biblically though hell is place of eternal separation from God that unbelievers go to in the afterlife, since they are separated from God, it IS punishment.

  • Jeannie

    I am not a Christian to gain Heaven or avoid Hell. Hell is a terrible doctrine that had its origins in Roman pagenism and was grafted on to Chrstianity long after its beginnings. Hell is responsible for keeping more people away from a belief in the Christian God than any other doctrine I can think of except, maybe the Rapture. The Rapture was added much later than Hell though. It only made it’s first appearances a few hundred years ago.

  • I never knew Christians needed an “understanding of human psychology”. All that God want’s us to know of human psychology can be found in his Word, the Bible. I was never taught heretical “Finnyism” (that we can actually attain earthly perfectionism).

    When an unbelieving sinner comes to a realization of their sinful spiritual condition before God and recieves God’s free grace and mercy (being born again) then they are free live a life that emulates Jesus.

    There are few people more miserbale than an uncoverted fundamentalist “Christian” that is living under the law of fundamentalism (the man made do’s and don’ts). They are unhappy, emotionally unfullfilled and unspirital in heart. Sure they can play the part, but the heart isn’t in it.

    Perhaps that was your upbringing, how bad everything was even movies, dancing, non-Christian music, (even CCM), pants on woman, ALL non-KJV Bibles, hair touching the collar on men, short hair on woman, woman teaching men in church, woman ministers, unsubmissive wives…and on it goes. I know what you mean, I know many of them. They’re living under the law of fundamentalism and not the teachings of Christ….

  • I’m simply a sinner saved by grace, a one time God hater and Jesus mocker, I’m no better than you nor know more than you. In fact, I probably know less.

    Yes, Jesus reached out to people that had a clear BELIEF they needed him, they could not do it on their own. Jesus clearly let the self-righteous go their own way. A self-righteous person is someone who believes in and of themselves they’re “doing right”. Jesus didn’t call the (self) righteous but sinners to repentance.

    Unbelievers can “blame” hypocritical Christians all they want why they don’t believe but that is just a red-herring, they don’t want to believe because they don’t realize their need for a Savior. Their pride stops them. All believers that believed in Christ believed by faith with a broken and contrite heart. The greatest example of Christ’s love was Calvary. There is no greater lover than this; laying down one’s life for another.

    I agree with you 100% that many of today’s fundies are just 21st century Judaizers. In order to be a “spiritual Christian” you must follow a long list of do’s and don’ts

  • Jeannie,

    I disagree, sin is what keeps people away from believing in Christianity. People can claim its hell or hypocritical Christians, or the “rapture” or every other excuse, but the Bible says it’s our sinful nature that separates us from the love of God.

  • Mary G

    Actually, it’s finger pointers who call me sinful simply for not being Christian who keep me away from Christianity as a practice.

  • Christy

    I have found even a basic understanding of human psychology to be helpful for anyone, not just Christians, particularly when it comes to understanding human interaction, relationships, and why people do the things they do at a more sophisticated level than simply because of “sin in one’s life.”

    Human psychology helps us better understand how and why fear is used by the big C church to protect and insulate itself from criticism and why the Church has employed draconian methods to crush all manner of opposition down through the age.

    As with other fields of science, psychology is compatible with religion and spirituality and can enhance one’s understanding of the Divine and need not be feared or shunned.

  • Barbara

    There’s a saying in AA: I’m not better than the person still drinking, I’m just better off. This could be the alcoholic in me talking, but I think there are plenty of people in the here-and-now suffering a “hell on earth” that could use a dose of God’s grace and mercy in their life TODAY. I think we have to be honest and say that what often turns off people to Christianity is that it seems irrelevant to their lives. God’s love, grace, compassion, power, etc manifesting itself in our lives is, bar none, the best way to bring people to Christ. Besides, I don’t think I as a Christian would even want to be a Christian if I thought the only thing God had to offer was something that requires me to DIE before I can have it. Now that would be a cruel God, if you ask me!

    To chime in on the hell bit, I do take issue with one part of your argument, John. You paint Christian views on hell with a very broad brush, and a rather evangelical brush at that. I rather like the Catholic view on it (of course I’m probably saying that because I’m Catholic, no?), that admission to heaven isn’t guaranteed to anyone, Christian or otherwise. We believe that you can technically become “in danger” of hell and still be a Christian. That’s because we think being a “Christian” is about a lot more than having had a one-time personal experience, but is actually a life-long process of becoming Christ-like. At the same time, all people, including Bin Ladin and *gasp* non-Christians are given over to the mercy of God, which knows no bounds. Gods ways are not our ways and all that good stuff. The takeaway (I promise there is one) is that maybe I should just worry about my own eternal destiny, and assume God is taking care of yours.

  • Christy

    Brian, I know you are sticking to the script of scripture and doctrine…..but speaking experientially, it is a person’s natural response to be turned off by people who come across as pious and arrogant instead of compassionate. This is where psychology and insight from fields beyond the content of the KJV come in handy.

    In your comment here you seem to be suggesting total depravity. Did you intend to imply that?

  • Jeannie

    I disagree Brian. I became a Chrstian as a child. I never questioned anything. I served God with all my heart until I was in my mid 30s. Situations and events forced me to question everything. One of the things I found appaling with I took it out to look at it in full light was the whole doctrine of Hell. It was single-handedly so repulsive to me I felt I would have to stay in my unhappy agnosticism if it were true. Happily I found a bunch of theologians who tackled the question of Hell and came to the conclusion that it was not real.

    I am clawing and willing my way back to a Christian faith. But I keep running into people and ideas that I grew up with that make me wonder why I am climbing so hard. I desire to love God and love people. I follow the teachings of Christ to the best of my ability and ask him for help where my strength fails. I am not seeking Heaven or fleeing Hell. If that is not enough for some people, that is okay with me. It seems to be enough for God.

  • So we are faced w/the following paradox:

    If we tell people Hell is a real consequence of rejecting God’s grace, some people will choose not to believe because they cannot accept a God who would allow people to reject his grace. If we are wrong, and Universalism ala “Love Wins” is correct, no harm, no foul. If we are right, then the people who reject God’s grace have at least been informed of the choice & the consequences & have made an informed decision of their own free will.

    Conversely, if we do not tell people Hell is a real consequence of rejecting God’s grace, then some people out of ignorance will reject God’s grace because they don’t see the point in altering their lives to accommodate God. If we are wrong, and Universalism ala “Love Wins” is correct, no harm, no foul. If we are right but remain silent, then our silence has condemned people to Hell who might otherwise have accepted God’s grace, while the people who would reject God’s grace if we preach about Hell might very well still reject God’s grace.

    What to do, what to do…

    I agree with the position “If evangelicals really want to do God’s work, and really want to save people from hell, then they need to…radically rethink their concept of hell”. Hell is not punitive, rather it’s a self-inflicted injury. We need to show God’s love & healing grace in our lives by demonstrating it to other people.

  • I didn’t call you sinful, God calls you sinful. God calls me sinful, For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

  • Christy

    PS: I can’t swallow sola scriptura, solo scriptura, nor dispensationalism. I refuse to limit God. God gets to reveal God’s-self anytime and anywhere God sees fit. To state otherwise unnecessarily limits God.

    It is our own arrogance and lack of humility, sin if you will, that impels us to force God into the confines of words and titles and into the shape of the house of worship of our choosing. Lao Tzu knew this. Confucius knew this. The Buddha knew this. Socrates knew this….Rumi…..that the ineffability of the Divine exists beyond the limits of words and the confines of our creeds and dogma.

    Like Ibn Arabi, the 12th -13th century Sufi mystic wrote:

    “Do not praise your own faith exclusively so that you disbelieve all the rest. If you do this you will miss much good. Nay, you will miss the whole truth of the matter. God, the omniscient and the omnipresent, cannot be confined to any one creed, for he says in the Koran, wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of Allah. Everybody praises what he knows. His God is his own creature, and in praising it, he praises himself. Which he would not do if he were just, for his dislike is based on ignorance.”

    Blessings on your journey, my friend.

  • Interesting post Jeannie, there was a time as a child you were born-again? Children raised in a Christian home tend to question Christianity later in life more than any others. It was all they ever knew so they never questioned and understand in their heart Christianity.

    May I ask you why you find the biblical truth of how unbelief (not being born-again specifically) eternally separates us from the love God in a place called Hell, is so repulsive? That is the final wage for our unbelief. You disobey God’s spiritual laws, you suffer the consequnces. No different than breaking the laws of society – do those laws repulse you too?

    God’s love is so abounding, so limitless, it is free and without measure yet it is only through His Son – Jesus Christ – we can truly receive that love. NO person can come to to God except through Jesus Christ. That is the only way. You are without excuse if you refuse the free gift of his eternal love and life. Refusal results in eternal separation from God, in a place called Hell. This is very, very clear in the Bible and with the actual words of Christ. You can try to spiritualize them away, or not believe one can be eternally seperated from the love of God, but we can and we are without excuse if we end up there.

    Jesus Christ libeerates us from the bondage of sin, its grasp on our life and He gives us eternal life for all who believe always within the love of God in heaven.

  • I agree that understanding human psychology in context of a Christian world-view is worth while. It is anti-God, humanistic psychology I have issue with. The Catholic church employed methods as you mentiond as they tried to crush Christians that would not bow to the heresy of Rome throughout the centuries.

    Science (the study of God’s Creation) is not in opposition to Gods Word (the Bible). Sometimes a faulty interpretation might be.

  • Jeannie

    I find the concept of eternal torture to anybody for any reason repulsive. Nobody no matter how evil they may have been in this life deserves eternal torture. It is twisted, psychopathic and completely unjust by any measure.

    I am aware of how some people interpret the scriptures to say that this is what God has set up. I am happy I have found another way to interpret the scriptures or else I would have chosen to throw them away.

    By the way I was not raised from infancy in a Christian home. I became a Christian as an adolescent. I left the faith in my mid 30s for a time while I searched out for what is true. I have returned to Christianity, but I will never return to fundamentalism.

  • DR

    Brian. Listen. Listen to what is being offered to you.

  • DR

    All that God want’s us to know of human psychology can be found in his Word, the Bible.>>>

    Brian with all due respect, if we didn’t have the education in Psychology and Human Behaviors, we’d still be segregated in the US due to people “using the Bible” to justify black people not going to public school with the white kids. Stop making education the enemy, please.

  • Doug

    While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. The Church calls us sinners, Jesus calls us brothers and sisters and loved. The church calls us sinners, God calls us sons and daughters. Our prespectives are huge. We aare by nature sinful, but for God so loved the world.

  • Doug

    We pretty much understand your position and the fundamentalist view overall. I have been there myself. My issue is does God send people to eternal punishment and torture for never saying the sinners prayer and recieve salvation? Billions Brian have never heard of our Jesus, Bible, Churches, tithes and offerings, or communion. According to your beliefs Billions of people, Millions of Native Americans, people all over the world for 1000s of years go to a christless grave and will be tortured becasue of Romans 1 and 10 and other biblical technicalities,

    As Chan says in the Video, I wouldn’t do that, and either would I, or you or the Lord Jesus Christ. It is time we wake up and realize we could be wrong.

  • Doug

    Would have followed Jesus if you knew he loved you and wants to be your comforter and helper and love you unconditionally? This is the message of the Gospel.

  • Daniel

    John, I’m stuck on understanding why instilling a bit of fear is incompatible with demonstrating love. You write…

    “What Chan is really saying here — as subtly as it’s hidden beneath his humble, searching, open-minded attitude — is, “Be afraid. Being wrong about hell has terrible, terrible consequences. It’s not something about which you can afford to be mistaken.”

    Let’s say hell is like an a drug addiction in that it is terribly self-destructive. You suffer the loss of your identity and humanity. Why would it be unloving to warn someone of the consequences of that behavior? Or let’s say hell is like touching a hot stove. Would it be unloving to warn your child about touching the stove?

    Look, if we’re talking strategies for evangelism, I’m all with you. You probably don’t engage people in dialogue by starting off with such a heavy topic. Most people are attracted to Christianity, in my experience, by relationships with loving Christians and by the power of the gospel – salvation by grace alone. But that’s a separate issue from whether or not Hell really exists.

  • Doug

    Great comments Christy! There are many that have been taught this same thing. It comes not from the heart of the Father, but from the minds of religious people.

  • Doug

    I would guess Brian is only repeating the doctrines of the system, more than likely Calvanism. I can’t speak for him though, only go by what I read.

  • Doug

    Well said!!

  • Jeannie

    The main problem with your argument is that there is no evidence of Hell. The concept of a magical place where people go to be tortured forever for not believing the right things is beyond ridiculous. Is this really the best we can offer people as a reason to believe in our God?

    There are only a few scriptures that seem to indicate this concept of Hell is they are interpreted a certain way. Even if Hell is real, it is not necessary to warn people of it in order to convert them. At best, you might win a few people over to your “side” while they feel afraid of this place. To stretch your analogy further – if warning people about smoking increased the tendancy for people to smoke, I would stop warning them.

  • I completely agree Ric. You took the words right out of my mouth.

  • Aside from disagreeing with everything Chan rattles on about in this video, the way he talks down to his listeners really irks me. Put your hands down Chan.

  • Don Rappe

    Well said.

  • Don Rappe

    I’m enjoying this thread now as it lengthens and becomes more rich. It is a good and important subject. It is easy for us to talk past each other. It is difficult for us to keep our minds open to the possibility that we may be able to learn more. I agree with Mr. Chan that the distinction between the symbols of heaven and hell is related to the distinction between humility and arrogance. But I find nothing humble about his belief that his intellect applied to the Bible can produce absolute knowledge. This seems to me to be the height of arrogance. I thus state bluntly the epistemological significance of the false doctrine of “inerrancy”. It is a false teaching which endangers it’s followers. We can rightly find the divine significance in the Bible or other sacred scriptures only by relying on the Spirit which inspired them to help us understand them. I feel this is a more humble way to understand such passages as “The Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God.”

  • Mindy

    Brian, you know nothing of me. Yet you say it is my sin that “keeps me from God.” Except that I have a wonderful and loving relationship with God. I’m just not Christian.

    Can you *really* not see how offensive and obnoxious you sound?

  • Mindy

    Brian, for what it’s worth, you are really, really annoying. Off-putting, close-minded and generally mean. You rule out the majority of humans on the planet with your “Bible only” hyperbole here, and you can go on and on, and all it will do is make you look bad and push people away from your church.

    You limit God. You limit the life experience here on earth, which is the only real certainty any of us have. I don’t compare myself with others. I know we are all flawed. And you put my words in quotes, individually, as if those aren’t the attributes for which we should strive. You are the worst kind of Christian – the ones who don’t listen, the ones who believe that JUST BECAUSE you believe in Jesus, the rest of it doesn’t matter.

    Like Maria, I feel sorry for you. Unlike Maria, I don’t like you.

  • Dirk

    I am reminded of the approach of many Christians to us gays.

    “You can’t be gay and Christian”.

    The more these Christians are confronted with the facts that sexuality is immutable, the more they are told – again and again and again by survivors of their “EX-Gay” “ministries” that they are still gay and all that is achieved is a deadening of the ability to love, the more they see the consequences of their actions in the death of teenagers and the homelessness of children (it is well established that between 25 and 40% of children who are kicked out of their homes by their parents are kicked out by Christian parents for coming out to them), the louder they shout:

    You can’t be gay and Christian.

    That’s the same problem with the “you’re going to hell” argument.

    First, who goes to hell is not up to you, it’s up to God.

    Second, who goes to heaven is not up to you, it’s up to God.

    Can you really still defend such an approach as “love” after what we saw pouring forth last week from those Christians about to be raptured? Does anyone really doubt that their primary joy was not their own “salvation” but the eternal suffering that gays and all the rest (but mainly the gays) were going to have inflicted upon them?

    I have never yet, not once, seen a person turn to Christianity because they were treated like a sub-human by Christians.

  • Of note: I think it is worth pointing out that the doctrine of original sin is a theory….something some choose to believe and upon which entire religions and denominations have been built. If the gnostics and the mystics had not been categorically exterminated by the Christian Church and in the present if we spent more time trying to understand the beliefs of other cultures, we might enlighten our own.

    It was the Native Americans and the Celtic Christians as well as other Eastern Religions that held that we are created with both divine and evil within us – the good and the bad wolf. The one that grows is the one we feed. Christ, and others, taught us how to feed the good wolf….or said another way: how to nurture the Divine within so that we and the Divine might be one. This is still consistent with the idea that the Divine is always drawing all of creation back to itself. And it is consistent with the insights of Jung.

  • vj

    “Question: What is the better moral/ethical choice, to stop warning the public about the dangers of smoking so as not to offend some smokers who seem determined to smoke, or to keep warning the public in the hopes of reaching those smokers who can be persuaded?”

    [possible] answer: instead of harping on about all the bad things smoking leads to, promote all the benefits that come with healthy living – make the end result attractive & desirable, and offer support to those who willingly express a desire to change their habits, instead of endlessly banging people over the head with negativity.

    I only know that, for me, “the kindness of God leads to repentance”. Speculating on what happens after we die may make for interesting philosophical discussions, but is ultimately irrelevant to how I experience God here and now.

  • C

    “I think it’s reasonable to say (and it’s certainly been my experience writing about Christianity for Huffington Post) that nothing keeps more people shunning Christianity than does the doctrine of hell as a real place. People just can’t get on board with a God so cruel and unfair that he would condemn to eternal physical torture anyone who, for any reason whatsoever, dies without first believing in him. Most non-Christians don’t see the Christian god as loving and all-powerful. Due primarily to the doctrine of hell being real, they see him as an egomaniacal psychopath. They think it’s just … baffling that anyone could believe in a God so insanely punitive.”

    Where do you find this in scripture?

  • C, Where does it say in scripture that the earth revolves around the sun?

  • The doctrine of Hell is a red-herring smoke screen unbelievers throw out as to why they or others can’t, don’t or won’t believe in Christianity. People don’t believe because they don’t want to. God doesn’t send people to hell, they send themselves there.

    Divine Judgment cannot be fully understood by us, but by faith I believe His judgment is holy and just. Man is without excuse if they end up eternally separated from God. Bible writers used terms and words familiar to them that we can relate to, since Hell is a spiritual realm, it cannot be said with certainty people are burning and burning. To the biblical writers the thought of eternal separation from God’s love was an incomprehensible state – tantamount to everlasting fire. Some take it literal. Whatever the case, it is a fact it is a spiritual state devoid of God’s love and even the hope of ever experiencing it.

    We are in a time of Grace and forgiveness from God. Unbelievers have plenty of opportunities to believe and repent of their sin. God’s love IS available on HIS TERMS not ours. We’re not God and we are in no position to question his holiness, righteousness and yes His judgement for violating His spiritual laws. He gives you a lifetime to beleive, if you don’t its your fault.

    I use the analogy all the time – if you disobey the laws of society you pay the price. You can whine about “fairness” or how some law isn’t “right” or you “don’t believe in that law” all you want, but you violate the law and you suffer the consequences. That’s OK, but violate God’s law and you’re not expected to suffer the consequences? The LOVE of God is that He has already paid the price for your disobediance to His law (for ALL have violate God’s Law) through Jesus Christ.

    We have already been found guilty -it’s now up to YOU to recieve the Divine pardon by grace through faith, that pardon was personified in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, His love is the fullest and truest love of all. Today is the day – now is the acceptible time, because you never know today your soul maybe required of you…..

    As to Bible verses about Hell, there are far too many verses to name but I will list a few for you to look at: , Job 11:8, Job 26:6, Psalm 9:17, 16:10, 139:8, Proverbs 15:14, Isaiah 5:14,33:14 14:15, Mathew 5:22, 5:29, 10:28, 18:8, 25:41, 25:46, , Mark 3:22, 2 Peter 1:17, 20:13, 20:14. 2 Thess. 1:9Jude 1:5-6 These should keep you busy.

  • That’s why I set my thot experiment in 1960.

    re warning people about smoking increasing the allure of smoking: We seem to have reached that tipping point re influencing public opinion (i.e., everybody is fully informed & all those who can be persuaded to not start smoking are going to stay non-smokers). Smoking is now seen as one of the few “safe” acts of rebellion.

    Bear in mind, that’s w/a a shi[p]load of hard scientific evidence backing it up. As you say, there’s no hard evidence for the existence of any afterlife, much less specifically Hell, but the consequences of being in error on the topic are far, far worse than the error of believing smoking isn’t a health threat.

  • “[possible] answer: instead of harping on about all the bad things smoking leads to, promote all the benefits that come with healthy living – make the end result attractive & desirable, and offer support to those who willingly express a desire to change their habits, instead of endlessly banging people over the head with negativity.”

    Ever see any commercials or print ads for tobacco in the 1950s/60s? The implicit message was that there was something wrong w/you if you weren’t smoking, that you weren’t “normal”.

    I agree w/your statement “Speculating on what happens after we die may make for interesting philosophical discussions, but is ultimately irrelevant to how I experience God here and now.” But as others have pointed out, the consequences for making the wrong choice are absolutely catastrophic and eternal. What kind of morality would advocate not warning people about such consequences if one believed they were real?

    How we go about warning people — specifically the manner & tone — are debatable points.

  • It doesn’t, in fact a faulty hermeneutic of Scripture concludes the contrary – geocentric!! That’s why the Catholics wanted to burn Capernicus, Kepler and Galileo, they said the universe (as they understood it at that time) was heliocentric – all heretics the Catholics claimed.

  • Mindy, I think he’s too tied up in legalism to even begin to grasp viewpoints outside of his own. Perhaps his mental rigidity is what he needs to ensure he follows the doctrine he so clearly values, regardless, without an open mind he’ll never, ever be able to put himself in your or my or anyone else’s shoes.

    The Who’s are singing as loud as they can, but the kangaroo is still ready to throw the clover in the boiling oil.

  • Mindy

    What??? Scripture was wrong???

  • Mindy

    Yup. yup, yup, yup – –

  • Don Whitt

    AS someone who struggles with Christian doctrine and the like, raised in the church, studied scripture,, etc, I agree with Brian W about hell being a red herring, but not for the same reason. I think those people are being polite or evasive at best.

    The real reason most people decide or choose NOT to believe or they choose to believe something OTHER than what the majority of Christians espouse is that very little of it makes any sense. It lacks believability. The NT deals with positing a man who is supernatural. The OT deals with God directly interfacing with humans.

    When has anything like this in any realm of REAL experience ever happened? Really? Prove it, then.

    You can’t. That’s the issue. People’s disdain for talking about hell is probably NOT some sort of avoidance of the issue out of fear. Although, people who go on about the supernatural ARE sort of scary. It’s about listening to nonsense and the ensuing uncomfortable feeling that there is a crazy person talking to you.

    The only relevance Christianity can attain in the majority of human beings’ lives is the practical application of Christian ideals. But all of the made-up topology of hell and the like is going to alienate anyone grounded in the reality-based community.

    Get real.

  • I would beg to differ about your first bit, “just an excuse.” All of the non-believers I’ve ever talked to about it in depth *aren’t* flippant about this. If they’ve ever really looked into Christianity, they’ve always really pondered this. One acquaintence I knew was… like most, fine with Hitler getting judgement, but – “I can’t even imagine Hitler suffering FOREVER.” And though, at the time, I thought Hell was unavoidable scripture, I agreed with him. It seems like disproportionate retribution. Then, of course, I brought out the spiel I’d been taught about how it’s not really God’s “fault” that it’s more like he is light and when you turn on a light, darkness is extinguised, ie. kind of a “law of nature” thing applied to spiritual matters – “sin cannot be in God’s presence, sinners are destroyed if it’s not removed.”

    That still makes sense to me, actually, but perhaps because only because I have some doubts as to God’s “omni-” ness. Whenever I see a natural disaster, for insance, it makes me doubt that God is as “onimpotent” and “all-loving” as so many of my bretheren claim. (To me, it sure seems like he likes to let the clockworks of nature do its thing most of the time). But, think about it, that light/darkness, “God is like turning on a light” thing? Don’t you think it makes God seem less-powerful to the unbeliever? All I know is that they don’t really buy that excuse. It seems to be more something we made up to feel better about a harsh theology.

    I have a friend who’s agnostic, raised Catholic, ex-catholic. She cites Hell as the thing that drove her over the edge of leaving her faith behind. But, the thing is, I don’t think she’s flippant about it as you imply unbelievers of being. I cannot speak for her, but when I talk to her, I get the feeling that at some point, she wanted to believe. I remember her talking to me about a family friend that had passed away and asking me if she was a “bad agnostic” for wanting to believe that her friend (devoutly religious) was right in some small way and actually went somewhere good rather than to oblivion. I told her that her feelings were only human. It’s only human to want the best for a friend, even if, logically, you think it’s a fantasy. I wonder if it wasn’t for Hell, if maybe she would have been able to believe and have the bit of hope we silly believers have when we face hard things.

    I really thought Hell was unavoidable scripture for most of my “walk.” NIV, right there, eternal damnation and all. I thought the Universalists were just blowing it out their rears, ignoring scripture for some touchy-feely politically correct wishful thinking crap. But, I didn’t want to believe in Hell. It was one of a handful of things about Christian theology I did not *want* to believe. (The other other big one was “gay is sin.” I believed that because I thought I had to, and didn’t want to). On both accounts, all I had to see was people arguing for the “hippie crap” from a serious, scriptural basis – people comparing scriptures, talking about original contexts and languages….

    Yeah, I used to think “God is so perfect, he would only allow the proper translation to shine through the ages so my NIV must be correct!” Erh. What I have learned from the art of writing is that nuance, symbolism, multiple meanings are everywhere. Also, I’ve learned from observing life that God pretty much lets us be idiots – probably becuase if he revealed too much to us, we either wouldn’t believe it or our stupid monkey heads would explode. He lets us err.

    Now, I really don’t know about any of this. I haven’t been to church for a long time, so maybe I’m just severely “backslidden” and a black sheep away from the fold. Maybe what I was taught when I was Baptist was correct. Maybe. For now, I like having doubts cast on it. I think these kinds of doubts make for a Father that’s more approachable, rather than one that’s waiting for his naughty children with belt in hand.

  • I do think unbelievers want to see believers living up to their ideals. No more hypocricy. The problem is, however, is that our ideals are so high (and the people watching us so closely, waiting for any misstep…. I just got the song “Dirty Laundry” in my head…) that it becomes an impossible task.

    It doesn’t mean we don’t try, though. Get as close to the ideal as possible.

    Your post brought up another thought in me: Maybe it’s all a matter of perception. Personally, I cannot shake the feeling that “something is out there” – something beyond the material. So many people want me to “grow up” and to “put aside fairy tales” and I can’t (and the fairy tales insult gets a flat out NO from me becuase… eh, I have a rant about that very thing on my blog, the power of fiction and all). It really is, at best, a hope, and nothing that I’m striving to proove scientifically. To me, trying to “proove spirit” is like trying to scientifically “proove art.” It doesn’t mean it isn’t there, just that people are trying to force a square peg into a round hole because they’re uncomfortable with the idea of square pegs.

    Also, think about how people thought back then. The Bible was written in a time *before* our modern way of thinking. To the people what we see as “supernatural” was probably in some ways their language for the natural. Today… look at the things we do today. We communicate long distances instantly using phones and the Internet. If someone’s (physical) heart has a problem, if they’re lucky, they can get a new heart transplanted into them. We move at the speed of many horses in horseless chariots on a regular basis. This is some what the fooseballs?! magic if we were to convey it to ancient people. And yet, we don’t think of any of this as “magical” or particularly miraculous. To us, it is merely science.

    It makes me think – maybe we really are preforming “miracles” on a regular basis, but we just don’t call them that anymore because of new language and new perception shifts. We work miracles without realizing it.

    Maybe it’s my imagination, but I totally think if science and technology march on, we’ll have resurrection technology someday – and no one will screech about it just because it’s man’s doing rather than God’s doing.

    But, yeah, to the modern mind, Christians believe in some pretty crazy things. Better to not harp on the “fantasy” elements as much as to show how real they are to us by doing the grit-work of… works. Show our hope in resurrected things with our resurrected spirits?

  • I do *not* understand parents who would kick their child out for being gay, being whatever – or disown them or anything like that. I mean, it just doesn’t brain to me or something.

    Maybe it’s because of the family I come from. Not a “church-family.” In fact, when I found Jesus as a teenager, I tried to drag my parents to church. Anyway….

    I’m straight, asexual, actually…. No one in my family is openly gay, so it’s not an issue we’ve had to deal with, but an issue we have had to deal with? Criminality. My brother was always a troublemaker. He wound up in prison for a while. Do you know what my family did?

    Visited him when we could. Every two weeks on average. Dad, Mom, me. My sister when she could come. And, you know what? When he was let out, my parents took him back in, hoping to give him another chance. He’s not really changed, still a jerkwad, but a little less criiminal than before, since he doesn’t want to go back to prison, and becuase he’s gotten some treatment for his mental illness.

    One that I unfortuantely share with him…. And my parents, though I’m far away from them now, accept me, too, still love me.

    Gay? Pheh. My family is accepting of insane criminals. Blood thicker than water.

    So, thrown out and disowned for being GAY? What the fork? My heart doesn’t understand such cruelty.

  • Bobby C.

    Let me start by saying that it’s hard to know anything. I love and agree with the logical leap that talking about Hell isn’t helping the cause. I’m all about instead focusing on Christ’s life and teachings and the awesome obedience of great figures in the Old Testament.

    My understanding, loosely based on a lifetime of biblical teaching, is that Hell at its most basic level is simply separation from God. If we separate ourselves from God, that might just become permanent upon death and the chaff from the wheat and chaff story has simply disconnected from God for eternity. What that really looks like in death I venture to say we cannot know.

    Indeed, Catholics pray for the souls of the dead, that through intercessory prayer God’s people can implore God to mend relationships even with those who have already passed. If time to God is not what it is to us (a confinement), than this seems possible. It also seems less of a stretch to see a merciful God judging based on his knowledge of each soul and not on things seen outwardly by other humans. Jesus practically said as much.

    Christians, continue to pray, so you will draw closer to God’s will and at the same time will join together in a pleasing chorus of submission to a Holy God. Non-Christians, continue to seek whatever good is inside of you. God is love, and he will neither leave you nor forsake you, no matter what. If you think of it, say a quick prayer for me, too.

  • Kara K

    First – as a follower of Christ, there is zero consequence to me should I not believe in hell. That’s one of the points John is trying to make. That is the logical fallacy he’s trying to point out..

    Second – consider your thought experiment. Consider those smokers who heard about the dangers of smoking and quit. Consider 30 years later and not a spot of empirical evidence has been found to indicate smoking is dangerous. How many of those people who quit have taken up smoking again? I’d guess just about all of them. People don’t truly change behavior for the sake of possible future consequences. People need to feel God’s love in their lives today.

  • Don Whitt

    Nice response, Shadsie, as usual!!

  • DR

    THe blatant disrespect you demonstrate consistently in your comments when you actually try to tell non-Christians the real reason they shun Christianity – instead of listening to them and taking them at their word, at face value – is demonstrative of the type of Christian who is terrified of being wrong and has no capacity to be in actual relationshipreign people who are non religious.

  • DR

    This x 1000

  • Danny

    Thanks John for the well thought out response to Chan’s video.

    The thing that kind of gets me in these responses to “Love Wins” (see also the book:”An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins” by Michael Wittmer a reformed theologian) and similar lines of reason is that they seem to discount our God given ability to use moral reasoning when it comes to thinking about God. When God initiated the law of “An Eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” it wasn’t only a mandate so that justice would be done…it was a law to ensure that retributive justice was not exceeded…(ie. someone being put to death for stealing). And so when we reason that a God of love and holiness couldn’t punish someone for eternity for a limited number of sins committed during a finite lifetime on earth, we are using God given moral reasoning and are using God’s laws for precedent. And when God tells the people that the one who doesn’t cover a well is liable for someone who falls into it, are we not to conclude that God is not going to throw someone into hell who hasn’t even heard of the person Jesus?

    And then there is Jesus’ own teaching. Did not Jesus appeal to our God given sense of moral reasoning when on the Sermon on the Mount he asks: “Which father among you will give your son a stone if he asks for bread? And which father among you will give your daughter a snake if she asks for fish?”. Or what about Jesus telling us to use our God given logic when he tells us to “look at the birds of the air…their Father takes care of them…and so you are worth more to him than a bird”. Here Jesus appeals to our ability to think and reason when we are trying to find out what God is like.

    And so, I am kind of concerned when Christians are criticized for asking “Would a God of eternal, unchanging agape love really care for someone intensely while they are living, but the moment they die He will pour out wrath and torture on them for eternity?” This type of question is valid.

    Of course, the standard evangelical answer is what Chan stated in his video that “God’s ways are higher than our ways”…this is true, but we also have been created in His image, and that means with the ability to think and to use moral reasoning…and this Jesus encourages us to do when we think about God.

  • Thomas Dooley

    Thanks.Really like this.Francis is bang on!!

  • DR

    Do you agree with the positions Francis is stating in the video?

  • Nice post,

    Consequences for breaking God’s law is very real, just like breaking the laws of society. By His free and soveriegn grace God saves sinners. He changes us to be conformed to the image of His Son. Our new heart compels us to be like Jesus, if not, then you aren’t one of His, you are a false convert. You can tell a Christian by their love and deep concern for the eternal destiny of lost souls. Conversion is a supernatural act by God the Holy Spirit in the mind and soul of a sinner. Words can never convince, wonderful selfless acts will never convert anyone…only God the Holy Spirit can truly change a persons heart to believe.

  • DR,

    Aimed at me I gather?

    The Bible says the reason people don’t believe, not me. A person’s heart is darkened by sin and that is the reason people don’t believe. There was a time I said the same excuses as I read here. People haven’t changed, they shun the free and soveriegn grace of God because they want to. Conversion is only possible by the supernatural work of God the Holy Spirit in the minds and hearts of unbelievers. Man willingly turns away from God but God in his love for a lost peoples, supernaturally changes a persons heart and mind so they can believe and repent.

    I’m not trying to disrespect anyone, if so, forgive me. The Bible is clear why people don’t believe and it is not the “doctrine of Hell”, they don’t believe because it’s their nature not to believe.

  • No, never, their interpretation was wrong.

    Scientists have mis-interpreted data they have gathered from God’s creation over the centuries and made cliams as “facts” that were later proven wrong. Theologians and Bible scholars are guilty of the same error over the years.

  • Kara

    Was doing a Bible study this morning on the whole “love your enemies” thing in Matthew. It made me think about this. One argument people make against universal salvation is that it takes away a person’s freedom to reject God’s message. But today made me realize why that argument’s never been convincing to me. A person can choose to reject God all day long, can choose to be God’s enemy, and God can still love that person enough to reconcile them in the end of things.

    We’re told to forgive, but then we act as if God can’t just decide to forgive. (Forgiving sin doesn’t mean liking it, it means seeing past it to the beautifully created child of God underneath it and choosing to grant them mercy.) We’re told to love and care for those who are against us, but we say that God couldn’t do the same thing. We compare God to a loving parent, and then we say that God has created a system in which finite transgression is met with infinite punishment.

    In fact, the debate about hell is a debate about the fundamental nature of God. It’s beyond the question of whether to talk about it or not. The belief in it, voiced or hidden, shapes other areas of theology in important ways. And although I know this is controversial, I have no interest in a God who is incapable of the kind of love and forgiveness that Jesus asked of us humans. I can’t prove any objective claim that there’s no hell, but I can say that the God I know is not consistent with the very idea of it.

  • cat rennolds

    so if only God the Holy Spirit can change a person’s heart to believe, then if He doesn’t, whose fault is it if anyone goes to Hell? check your logic.

  • Bri

    I thought the video was lame as well. I know nothing about the book. Rob Bell seems confused to me, but… evangelicals should “shut-up” about hell? Should Bill Weise shut-up about hell? What about Mary K Baxter? How about atheists converted to Christianty after a near-death experience? It’s very easy to ridicule Christians preaching fire and brimstone when you haven’t come face to face with pure evil.

    I understand that hell is a difficult concept to grasp, however, it is not a fairytale made up by Hebrews. Ancient cultures all over the world give accounts of hell. Non-Christians ought to have a hard time believing in a God who would send them to hell because God didn’t create it for humans. He created it for satan and his demons. Because we opted for the knowledge of both good and evil, we are subject to death. Despite our lack of understanding, each human being has free will and will be held responsible for the choices he or she makes. So we get to choose which path we follow – life or death – but once you leave earth, it is too to change your mind.

    Hell is very real. Call it fear-mongering if you want, but people who have been there and back do not have the luxury of skepticism and armchair critique. It’s more than a philosophical debate or a scare tactic.

  • DR

    Yes, it’s aimed at your Brian. I understand you hold a very different view which is fine – that doesn’t matter. But how willing are you to be a student here? The Bible is very clear *to you* and you’re simply relying on interpretation which is what 3000 factions of Christianity do. So please be a bit more careful about saying “This is what the Bible says” because in truth, what you or any one of us can know is “This is how I interpret the Bible – as a result, this is the meaning it has for me and it’s how I view others.”

    It’s an absolute cop out to blame your lack of listening here and your lack of respect on the Bible, I’m so weary of my fellow Christians doing that. Take some responsibility for your own words and your own interpretation for goodness sake. Saying “the Bible is clear on this” means you give yourself an out from actually listening to people who are telling you otherwise. It means you can decide an atheist’s intent, the reason why they don’t believe in God without even knowing them. And a lot of Christians like that because they really struggle with having relationships – real relationships where they are influenced and mentored – by someone who doesn’t believe in the same ways that you do.

    You have an opportunity here where some very smart, loving, non Christian people are telling you about their experience If you keep refusing to listen and keep insisting that your interpretation of Scripture is an appropriate substitute for what they are telling you? It’s not just a loss for you but it’s a loss for all of us because you represent us when you say that kind of thing.

    to them or are you more invested on what you actually believe the Bible is saying about them?

  • DR

    (ignore that last sentence. typo!)

  • DR

    Brian, do you believe Catholics are Christians?

  • Correct, it doesn’t, which was my point. Truth exists outside of scripture. Truth that was uncovered through human observation. Observations which were criticized by the Righteous and labeled as heretical and anti-scripture….Why? Because of our limited view; we are blinded by ego and religious certainty. What we lack is Divine imagination. Think bigger, God keeps challenging us.

    The Divine cannot be contained by sola scriptura.

  • Mindy

    Thanks for this, DR. You were much nicer to him than I was. I can’t even read his holier-than-thou stuff anymore. If it says “Brian W” I move on. Because as far as I can tell, he has absolutely no interest in letting one new thought into his head. He knows everything, and doesn’t need anything else.

  • (Actually haven’t watched the video, as I dislike confrontational people, but I was involved in this disscussion before the video was added).

    Personally, I do think there is something out there, bad consequences for bad choices, sickness for those who refuse a cure, but in my thinking, is physical death really the doorslam to grace that most churches teach? When I came into touch with some of the anti-Hell arguments (no, I haven’t read Bell’s book yet, either, I’m talking of arguments I’ve seen from others), I didn’t see an “everything’s hunky-dory and oh, yeah, that’s Hilter frolicking in Heaven with Ghandi and Mother Teresa,” – I saw arguments for there being a bad spiritual place/condition, but that God’s grace is always there. Arguments for this range from the story of Jesus “preaching to the spirits in prison” and verses about how God is everywhere, even in “Sheol.”

    And when I think about it, I think to the last chapters of Revelation, the New Jerusalem – as I recall, there are people who are within (they that love God) and those that are without (those clinging to their sins) but… if I remember correctly, the GATES ARE ALWAYS OPEN.

    It just makes me think, maybe physical death isn’t the “Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200” so many think it is. I think the verse people use for that one is Jesus talking about people “dying in their sins” but… the more I think about that, the more ambigous it becomes. I mean, dying in shame is pretty bad, right? Doesn’t mean that there’s not always a light one can see if only one turns around to look at it.

    All I know is that between former days and now, my “evangelism” style hasn’t changed much. I wasn’t “more urgent” when I was more sure of an eternal Hell than I am now. Well, for the first couple of years after finding Jesus (he was behind the couch next to some spare change and a half-eaten bag of Cheetos), I was, but it tapered off because, you know what? I learned that people don’t like when you press anything on them. After a while, I only really talked about the things of my faith when the subject came up. I treated Christianity then as I do now – as being like Tabasco sauce – you don’t forcibly put it on other people’s food, you just set it on the table and tell them that it’s good and if they don’t want it, they don’t. Such a refusal to force people to try it would seem cruel if an eternity of Hell is at stake and people can die and get a doorslam on grace at any time, but the fact of the matter is, if you press such things on people, people will run, or spit in your face and nothing is accomplished.

    Nowadays, when I talk of my faith and defend it to anyone, I’m not selling them anything. Now as then, it’s pretty much defending what has become a part of me, defending who I am and my right to exist and why I am existing in the way that I am. Where people run from “preaching,” especially that which includes Hell, they’ll respond to honesty. I feel rather privilaged when a non-believer (who doesn’t become a believer), puts aside some of their bigotries because of me – ie. they find out that “a Christian with a brain” exists and it flabberghasts them. Sometimes, that is enough.

  • A person is still culpible for their sin and its consequences, the freedom to call out to a loving and forgiving God is always available to all people without exception up to the moment they die. That fact that God saves anyone is more than anyone deserves. God will change a persons heart if they believe, by faith that He will.

  • DR,

    Fair enough, I can admit if I have been closed-minded and, get this….wrong. You’re right, Christians do hold to different interpretations of Bible doctrine and after 30 years as a beleiver, I’m certainly no exception. I’m a sinner saved by grace and if I’ve come across as “holier-than-thou” as Mindy claims, then I must have, for that I’m sorry because as a Christian I’m no better than anyone here. Jesus rebuked the religious self-righteous more than any other group of people, even more than the Roman tax-collectors that were corrupt as a person could be to the 1st century Jew.

  • Some are some aren’t…only God knows. I would never make a judgement whether a person is converted or not. Like Jesus said I need to deal with the log in my eye before I point out a splinter in someone else’s

  • Well of course truth exists outside of the Bible. Even the universe can’t contain the Divine!! Sola scriptura was the cry of the Reformers to claim there is no other written source for Divine truth (ie. like the Apocrapha or some Papal edict for example), not that truth only existed in the Bible. I know of no Christian that makes such a claim.

  • Well, I have read all of your posts and I have concluded this, I am very glad that all of you came to the conclusion that there is some amount of Truth that exists outside of the Bible because my “slant” on Hell is probably much different than Francis’, Rob Bell’s, John Shore’s or even the Bible’s for that matter. Whew…as I wipe the sweat off of my brow after reading this entire post and the all of the responses that followed. I almost thought I had died and gone to hell. I mean for a moment there, I was feeling really, really condemned. But not to worry, I’m feeling much better now that I know with certainty after all of you came to agreement on the fact that Truth exists outside of the Bible! Thank you for clearing that up for me!

  • Lili C

    Hi all – I continue to “lurk” here almost daily, although I don’t post very often. I did want to respond to many of the comments here, though, as well as refer to the previous article on Francis Chan. John, I greatly appreciate your writing and insights, and am challenged and inspired by much of what your regular posters here share as well. The majority of the time I am in agreement with the majority of what is written here. So please read my comments here as spoken in a respectful tone of voice, not a snotty one.

    I can understand your actual anger at those who use scripture and Christianity as an excuse to be hateful and hurtful to others – for example, the long-running dialogue throughout this blog about the way gay persons may be reviled and rejected by “Christian” circles. But I think the doctrine of Hell is a bit different. Although I hear what you’re saying about people being turned off God because of the notion of Hell, those who believe in a literal Hell are not using that belief to discrimintate or injure others. I personally believe that far more people are turned off of God because of the rampant hypocracy of so many who call themselves Christians. I I think that most people are so caught up in the here and now that few spend much time genuinely thinking about the hereafter. And in my experience, many who proclaim they can’t believe in a god who would send people to Hell don’t want to believe in God anyway, and are just latching onto an excuse that sounds good. Most people are going to reject or accept God because of how it affects life now, not some other existence they can’t even visualize yet.

    For all of these reasons, your tone in the last two articles were troublesome to me. I realize there is no proof that a literal hell exists, but however reasonable you think your argument is, there is also no way to know that there isn’t. Therefore, this becomes basically a difference of opinioins and interpretation. Implying that anyone who hasn’t reached the same conclusions you did is childish is not helpful to any conversation. As for Mr. Chan, I never heard of him until I saw the video you posted. Like you, I thought his presentation was rather affected, but I didn’t really get the sense that he was trying to scare people. It felt to me like he was saying that this issue (in his opinion) is a very important one that poeple need to wrestle with. I’m not sure it was appropriate to charactarize those who share this school of thought as “Mr. Chan and “his ilk”, ilk being a pretty pejorative term. I did some searching on the internet about him. I don’t know enough to reach any final conclusions about his work, but if what I read so far was accurate, he seems to genuinely seek to serve God, and especially to reach out to those who need it most. He supposedly donates 100% of his book earnings to a ministry to help children escape the sex slave trade, gives a large portion of his personal income away as well, and even the church he pastors is committed to giving away 55% of thier income. If all of that is accurate, then may he and “his ilk” multiply, regardless of their conclusions about hell! And, while I certainly defer to your advanced knowledge in the writing field, even if not including his co-author in the video may raise certain suspicions, unless you know something more it really is not definitive proof that he has done anything nefarious to cut Preston Sprinkle out of the loop. For all we know, Mr. Sprinkle may just not want to be involved in that end of things.

    I guess my main point in all of this is that the level of your hostility in these last two entires, towards those who simply have a differing opinion from you, made me squirm just a little.

    That being said, for whatever it’s worth I don’t disagree with your conclusions. I think since the afterlife is truly unknowable until we get there, it just doesn’t make a lt of sense to spend a lot of time and energy worrying about it. I really do love your metaphor about the museum – trust me, I will probably steal that one to make myself sound pithy and wise.:-) Anyway, those are my 2 cents for what they are worth.

  • Josh T

    Wow! If we are not going to talk about hell then don’t talk about the cross.

  • Leslie G.

    Ah, I love this! I always come up against this wall and you’ve finally opened a a window for me to look through both on justice and human ability to use moral reasoning. Thanks!

  • DR

    Implying that anyone who hasn’t reached the same conclusions you did is childish is not helpful to any conversation.>>

    I’m confused. It’s profoundly clear that the ways we as Christians have communicated “hell” to non Christians has done tremendous damage to the witness of Jesus. The evidence to that is overwhelming one only needs to look to this blog and the hundreds of non-Christians who either left their faith or were pushed away from considering it because of the teachings of hell. Christians thinking we’ve nailed things due to what the Bible says – segregation, for example – has been a consistent example of the ways we as a group seem to just stop *thinking* as we swing some verses around. This is unfortunately, one of the most common things that has occurred within our 2000 years.

    Are you really suggesting calling out our continuation of that damaged approach – that’s hurting the witness of Jesus Christ – “childish”? Wow.

  • DR

    You’re welcome. The next thing we’ll be tackling is what the Bible says about the dangers of that 3D animation art that if you stare at long enough, you see a spaceship. I hope you’ll join in.

  • DR

    I’d be careful, Brian. A lot of your actual beliefs about Catholics are pretty clear. You have the last word on if you believe they are actually “saved” or not. I’ll leave you to it.

  • DR

    Comments like this – when taken to heart – can be quite productive within our interior. I hope that’s the case for you.

  • Josh

    Wow! If you are not going to teach on hell then don’t teach on the cross!

  • I think that at the very least people need to stop talking about hell as if they had it all figured out. The Bible gives us what we need to know, not what we want to know. Because of that there are holes in our knowledge that we’d like to fill, and by God’s grace we have the ability to theorize. But, as this post points out, knowing is not the same as theorizing and acting as if they were damages our credibility on issues that actually are clear. And in all areas, we need to stop shutting down any discussion that we disagree with.

  • I believe that is the case DR…

  • I love your stuff John and pretty much agree with, even, mostly about this. I especially appreciate your insights into Francis Chan’s video as I had a similar feeling that it seemed sort of, i don’t know, cheesy and misleading, but I didn’t understand why and certainly couldn’t articulate why until you made it so clear. Thanks.

    But, I wouldn’t be typing this unless I had something more to say. And, here it is. The only problem with your logic is that it could be that preachers that preach about hell actually scare people into becoming christians. Maybe. I think most christians who say they became a christian as a child will say they did it cause they didn’t want to go to hell.

    Now, that might be a bad reason. In fact, it might even be such a bad reason that the person doesn’t even understand what it really means to be a christian and thus isn’t really a christian at all. There are lots of ways this can play out.

    And, I suppose there’d have to be a balancing and weighing of harm vs good that preaching on hell does.

    But, in any event, I’d love to hear your thoughts about that — what about those who are literally scared into going forward and saying they “accept Jesus” in order to avoid hell? How do they fit into your calculus?

    Keep up the thought-provoking stuff. Thinking is always a good thing.

  • Kara

    I don’t think that conclusion necessarily follows, but I would be more than okay if evangelicals decided to talk less about the cross and the blood too.

  • DR

    For me I think about the verse “Some will call Me ‘Lord, but I will say they never knew me.”

    Can you actually experience the incredible validation of being *loved* so deeply if the reason you’re believing in God is because of a fear of hell? Jesus has made God my “Father”. He’s truly my Father, the one who has the last word on who i am. I’m surrounded by his safety and his love. Pain has a purpose. I am challenged to be better. I love better without attachments, without needing some kind of fruits from my actions. Hell doesn’t even enter into the equation for me (neither does heaven either, really). My present experience of Christ and how he truly saves me from myself – from creating hells on earth and destroying myself and others – is an entirely full plate for me.

  • DR

    Mindy my friend, there’s a difference between nice and being good. For a long time I was a nice Christian girl. And that was just to ensure everyone adored me. I’m a work in progress, but being *good* is often far more productive than being nice. and being good doesn’t always feel nice. And you are the former in spades.

  • DR

    Good! Me too. 🙂

  • Amber

    People who take the side of Rob Bell and people who take the side of Francis Chan are both wasting their breath arguing over what they should not be focused on.

    1 Corinthians 1 & 3

  • Lili C

    A couple of things to reply to your reply, DR. First, I agree with you that when Christians determine tht their interpretatin is the only possible correct one – and that others are misguided or even evil if they don’t reach the same condlusions – never does anything but hurt people and push them away from Christ. Perhaps my experiences with church has just been different from many of the posters hre, but I just haven’t seen people nearly as turned off or injured byteachings about hell as they ahve been by Chrictians who practice hypocracy – hatefulness, cruelty, selfisheness, greed, etc. – in the name of Christ. To me, that is the greater danger than those who genuinely believe there is a literal Hell. I also think, as I said, that few people actually spend a lot of time or energy worrying about the afterlife – it’s just too “out there” and far away for them to imagine. If I were still an unbeleiver, I’d be much more drawn to christ by the ideas of unconditional love – NOW – and an ever present Father.

    As for the comments about childishness, I think you misinterpretted, probably because of confusing wording on my part. I was making a reference to the title of John’s post – Is Hell Real? What are We, Six? – in which he seems to accuse those who believe in a literal Hell as being childish. My point was that calling people childish, because they have reached different conclusions than us, is not helpful to healthy dialogue.

  • Thomas Dooley


  • Tito

    I began reading this article and was turned off by the very first line, “there are a great number of things about this video that I don’t like”. Who cares what you don’t like when it comes to God and His Word. While the revelation of Scripture is not exclusive to just one man or doctrine but to a whole as the Body of Christ, it is still as the Body objectively not subjectively. This article and its contents disqualifies itself bynthe very nature that it wants to submit a God issue to the “dislikes” of a man. Truth is Objective NOT a Subjective Preference! The only objective Source that qualifies is God through His Word, not some writer through his rantings about how much he dislikes something. In these days that we live in, which are the Last Days Scripture clearly says that many will not want to here Truth but only that which scratches their itching ears. as a reasonable and logical person I can’t help but ask the question, “I wonder if the answer presented in this article is scratching their ears”? We can’t pick and choose what parts of the gospel we want to be true or relevant for today. Finally, Jesus Christ the Son of God taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, soul and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves for all the laws of the Prophets hang of these two. If we as believers are not doing these two, we have no right or foundation to be discussing, arguing or presuming to speak for God as His authority. Get out from behind your computer, writing what you like and dislike and go into the world teaching and making disciples of men. This is what true, pure and un-perverted religion is all about. This is why I will forever follow those who live life like Christ and not those who talk or write about what they like of dislike about Christ.

  • Matthew Vincent

    I also found this video disturbing, especially when he told me to pray fast, I like to take my time when I pray so as not to rush my words

  • Josh

    It absolutely follows! The cross saves us from hell! If we don’t talk about the cross there is not point to any part of christianity! The cross should be the focus and front of everything we do! We move forward by looking back at the cross! You cannot be saved if you think we need to talk less about the cross because that means you don’t understand your sin!

  • “the posing pretending to be pondering”

    “What Chan is *really* saying”

    WOW! You know Francis’ heart? Really? It’s nice to meet you, Holy Spirit.

  • I didn’t say anything about his heart. I said that what he IS doing here is appealing to people’s fear, which is manifested in his words: it’s in the title of his video, for goodness sakes. (Hey! I just now noticed they CHANGED the title of his video! When I wrote this piece, it was called, “Hell: You Can’t Afford to Get It Wrong.” How interesting that they changed it.) And, yes, he DOES pose, while pretending to ponder. Unless you actually believe that, while the camera and mic and lights are all around him, he really DID just then slip into a deep and silent pondering of the mysteries of divinity.

    And mightn’t you at least TRY not being such a dick?

  • Suz

    I didn’t notice any “liking” or “disliking” of Christ, just a logical criticism of a video and the type of preaching the video represents. Perhaps you should have actually read the article before hopping up onto a soapbox, from behind YOUR computer.

  • A’isha

    So Tito, you’re condemning John for writing about not liking the video by writing about not liking his article. Hmmm, something to think about, right? Did you ever think that possibly it’s good to have people express their opinions of so-called leaders within the Body of Christ? Otherwise people, possibly you or others, will blindly agree with said leaders. We need discussion. We need to question our leaders. We need to question the Bible itself. Jesus encouraged this by calling out the religious leaders of his time.

    Furthermore, don’t use the term “Scripture ‘clearly’ says” anything. If it was so clear there wouldn’t be differing points of view in the interpretation. Unless of course you’re saying it’s so clear because YOU know the correct interpretation which means you’re so much smarter than the rest of us mere mortals.

  • Suz

    That is probably true for children, but adults are capable of critical thought. Frankly, I feel sorry for any Christian adult who has never matured beyond the fear of hell. I think they’re missing just about everything.

  • DR

    Dear Tito,

    Women should get paid as much as you do at the same job and gay men and women should be able to be married.

    Those are just factual. I’ll wait for your total agreement on the above statements. Thank you.

  • Barb

    I care, that’s who. God loves all of His children equally, no matter how diverse their beliefs in Him. He loves John, Francis Chan, you and me, just the same. I am thankful that people like John understand their Christian duty to share God’s love for all of His children, and to point out the obvious danger in the portrayal of God as “the boogeyman” to confused or questioning souls. Fear tactics usually backfire…

  • DR

    Get out from behind your computer, writing what you like and dislike and go into the world teaching and making disciples of men. >>>

    Tito, your interesting spasm of “internet warrior” might feel all strong and powerful to you but your 15 minutes of fundamentalist fame are over and I sense you know it. You don’t get the last word on Jesus anymore, Christians with some sense, with some maturity and who’ve not replaced faith for critical thinking skills and you know – manners – are standing against you now so you don’t hurt anyone else.

    So here’s the bottom line. Your anger is embarrassing and volatile, it represents someone who’s emotionally lacking in maturity. You don’t represent “the Word of God”. Nobody cares who you want to follow and if we’re one of them. We just don’t.

    You’re just someone who refuses to engage in actual relationships and participate in genuine dialogue so you hide behind your Bible – I get it, I used to do it too. I’m not sure if it’s that you don’t know how or that you can’t reasonably counter someone like John or one of his commenters – only you know that.

    But someone has to tell you that. These one-trick conversation ponies that fundamentalist Christians try to pull out here – these walls of opinion and accusation – only illuminate your poor conversational skills. You’re simply out of your league here, people like you get dissected, then dismissed because you’ve got three speeds” Teach. Defend. Run” Maybe someone will eventually hang in and go the distance, it’s not happened since I’ve been here.

    Let me save you some time by writing your next comment for you: “I’m being attacked personally! DR is being mean to me! I mean, ignore the fact that I just attacked the owner of this blog personally, I should be excused for *my* behavior because I’m filled with the zeal of the Lord, I’m just saying what the Bible says so it’s totally OK that I get to be a rude a$$hole to the owner of this blog. But DR just called me a rude a$$hole! I’m leaving! You people are meanies!”

  • DR

    This is with all due respect, ridiculous. I wish those of you would stop treating the Bible and it’s verses like a ping pong match. These are really important discussions occurring here with people who are trying to have a substantial conversation, alright? This is far more than just “taking sides”, for God’s sake. Peoples’ spiritual and emotional health are being impacted here.

  • DR

    Seriously, does anyone actually *read* anymore? It’s obvious that nobody knows the heart of Francis Chan and frankly, can we please stop focusing on peoples’ hearts? That’s for God to decide, what John is clearly calling out here is the *impact* Chan which is exactly what this tenant of hell preached in the way Chan is doing here does – grabs people by their fear and never lets go. He can be as humble as he wants or dance around the fact that he’s doing that – but he’s doing it.

  • DR

    Did you even read her response? I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone.

  • DR

    No I didn’t misinterpret you. There are conclusions that many of us have reached about Jesus that are – indeed – childish. We’re called to actually put away childish ways of thinking in Scripture. Calling childish thinking – as adults – is about the most important thing we can do, the healthiest dialogue we can have, if we actually say we represent Jesus Christ. Kindness isn’t always going to feel good, Lili.

  • DR

    OK. Your comment was unclear as to whether or not you were referencing Chan’s video or the blog post. Thanks for clarifying.

  • DR

    I love the statement “even the universe can’t contain the DIvine.”

    It’s been my experience that Christians will reject science, philosophy, psychology – a number of things that are not within the Bible – because they are not the Bible.

  • DR

    Perhaps my experiences with church has just been different from many of the posters hre, but I just haven’t seen people nearly as turned off or injured byteachings about hell as they ahve been by Chrictians who practice hypocracy – hatefulness, cruelty, selfisheness, greed, etc. – in the name of Christ.>>>

    Lastly, I’d encourage you to do some reading, even on this blog. It’s easy to fall back on our own experience as being a reference for a generalization but it’s very clear from the hundreds of atheists who’ve participated on this blog that the teaching of hell and how that teaching was delivered has been a significant reason behind them not considering Jesus as being accurate. It’s too inconsistent for them to imagine a loving God who sends people who’ve never even gotten a chance to hear about him – or who were born gay for example – to hell. Which is what we as a Church have been telling people for years.

  • DR

    The people you have to endure here really are something, I could never do it. I’d never last! I don’t know how you tolerate all of these a&&holes just “standing up for the truth of Jesus!” taking no responsibility for their bad behavior and their drive-by spurts of nasty. It is SO embarrassing as a Christian to watch these people do this and have absolutely no clue of how inappropriate it is and how much damage they do. I want to clean up behind them with a virtual mop saying. “Sorry – I’ll get that. No no, let me clean up, I’m sorry. Yeah we don’t really know what to do about these guys, free speech and all that it’s a bit of a nightmare. Sorry to disturb.”

  • That has been my experience as well, DR.

    My point in asking the original question to “C” was that his/her criticism lay/lie in asking John where his point of view could be found in scripture.

    My point was: there are many things found outside of scripture which are, in fact, true…..so C’s point would be???

    And, respectfully, Brian, I do like your comment: “even the universe can’t contain the Divine.” Yet, in many of your comments here you seem to always refer back to scripture. In fact numerous times you clarify that the point of view you have presented is not yours, but that of the Bible. So, I was pointing out, by drawing a direct correlation to Gallileo and Copernicus, that there are Divine truths that exist outside of scripture and that those truths have been historically challenged as valid by the church and that the holders of those beliefs were punished, often with heretical labels or worse, by the church for not adhering to proper orthodoxy….. which is what we are still discussing here today about “proper beliefs about hell”.

  • Christy

    Josh, can you see how one can say (and see) this several ways?

    1) Jesus’ act of unconditional love saves us from hell.

    2) Jesus’ act of unconditional love saves us to heaven.

    3) Jesus’ act of unconditional love saves us = 4) Jesus act of unconditional love reconciles us to the Divine

    5) Jesus act of unconditional love is the kind of radical example of the transforming power of unconditional love which is seen when we turn the other cheek, and treat our neighbor as ourselves, and love our enemies, and lay down our life for our friends, and is how we show the world we are Christians by our love….. which is exactly what St. Francis of Assisi meant when he said “preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words” and is the gospel message that will ultimately turn the world upside down…. for good.

    Like I said the other day, convincing people to convert to Christianity in order to avoid hell is like convincing people to get married because being single is a completely horrible, awful experience they should avoid at all cost.

  • peet

    another thing I hear quite frequently, when asking questions like this, is: god has confounded the wise and revealed things to the foolish. In other words, it’s virtuous to be dumb.

  • Don Rappe

    I agree that the debate about hell is also a debate about God!

  • Don Rappe

    This is my second go round with Christianity. It has been more long lasting and differs from the first in that I try to avoid every superstitious interpretation of the faith that was once delivered to the saints. I believe it is possible to do this in a humble way.

  • Don Rappe

    I like to remember that both Copernicus and Galileo were practicing and presumably faithful Christians. They show me how possible it is for Christians to explore the creation scientifically. The same can be said for Newton, Gilbert, Maxwell and Darwin. It always makes me smile when I hear someone tell me that the principles these men discovered should keep me from believing in God.

  • Christy

    Brian, help me understand. It seems you are talking about total depravity and free will. Are you in agreement with one or the other or both?

  • Suz

    DR, you rock! (again) It’s probably safe for the troll patrol to stand down for a while. You’re right; they run out of answers pretty quickly, partly because they can’t (or won’t) understand the questions.

    Did you catch that, Tito? QUESTIONS! Ask them. Listen to them. Consider answers that make sense. It’s a little scary, but it’s not that hard.

  • Neil

    i must have watched a different version of the video. the one i saw did not strike me as being overly slick. the one i saw showed a man saying we should take the topic seriously, not inducing fear. the one i saw had a guy asking for prayer; it never entered my mind that he was a poser.

  • Perhaps it was unfair of me to conclude that you know Chan’s heart. So would you please enlighten me as to how you know “[w]hat Chan is *really* saying”. It was a bit overly-spiritual to go right for the “heart” angle. Perhaps you just know the cameraman who overheard Chan say confidentially to someone, “What I’m *really* saying is this….”

  • To paraphrase you, “Seriously, does anyone actually *read* anymore? … What John quite specifically wrote is “[w]hat Chan is *really* saying …”. Perhaps the *main* point of the OP was to call out the inducing of fear. And while I don’t agree that this video does that, a lot of Bell criticism does, so it’s a worthy topic to discuss. But over-arching assertions and claims of the ability to divine what’s really happening do nothing to advance the conversation.

    I may be a dick (according to John), but I’m a dick that reads. Please do not imply otherwise.

  • DR

    This is such a classic maneuver of Christians like this. To “kind of” take responsibility for the ways they put words in one’s mouth, to twist the meaning and intent and spirit of the points offered and then craft a second question that does exactly the same thing.

    It’s such an obvious trap.

  • DR

    You’re a dick that reads to only validate the point of view he’s unwilling to let go of or reconsider. So you come onto sites like this one all filled with your righteous zeal ready to teach everyone how wrong they are. It’s a pattern – first guys like you are sarcastic and aggressive. Just like you were. Then when called on it, you backtrack a little and put your “hey maybe I got you a bit wrong” face. The next thing you do is get defensive (which you just did). And the final thing you’ll do is claim you’re being attacked and leave with an aggressive Christian “F You” to make sure you get the last word because you can’t stand being challenged on your posture/approach/points of view. I’d bet money on it.

  • DR

    I think in part Neil (I might be wrong), what we see depends on what we love. Shakespeare said “Love adds a precious ‘seeing’ to the eye”. And I agree with him. I remember going to the site of Justin Taylor that featured a massive critique of Rob Bell’s book – without even having read the book, people were calling him a false prophet and a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I watched the video and remember thinking “This is just a guy who is challenging our notion of and communication about hell. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do as Christians? What’s the huge evil that everyone is seeing?” But in fairness, I align with Rob Bell’s intent, his theology and what he wants to see people experience and why. So I’m sure that lent itself to what I saw vs. others who are on the other side of the alignment fence, so to speak.

  • Of course you’d bet money on it. Your first two sentences clearly demonstrate that you know all about me. (Apparently, this omniscience thing is contagious.) Let me fill you in on a couple of things that you don’t actually know about me, just so you can have a more complete picture.

    Before the release of “Love Wins”, I was pretty much theologically aligned with those that turned out to be critics of the book (and sadly, more often, of the author). Once the criticisms started coming out, with their total lack of graciousness and ad hominem attacks on Bell, the anti-Bell rhetoric was so virulent and unChristian that I seriously started questioning the theology, too (and still am, to some degree). I honestly could not see how fairly learned people (as opposed to ODM-type nutcases) could have such a disconnect between their theology and their methodology.

    (My favorite — at least for irony — was J-Mac definitively telling us that Bell was going to hell on a site called “Grace to You”. My recent mantra has been, “grace to you, my @ss.”)

    Then I had a chance to listen to “A Discussion with Rob Bell” at Denver Serminary ( http://www.denverseminary.edu/news/a-discussion-with-rob-bell/ ) — it’s something I’d recommend to anyone on either side of the issue. It is clear that the host and some of the students (who got to ask questions) disagree with Bell on some stuff, but it was all conducted *very* graciously. And so I thought that maybe it *was* possible, after all, to graciously disagree with someone, and to not attack them personally.

    And this is largely how I saw the Chan video. While he was very(and IMHO, overly) gentle about it, he *did* call out those who apparently thought that the issue was so important that they need not worry one iota about lousy methodology. And he does so a good bit more sternly in the book excerpt.

    But Rob’s questions are still out there, and I’m still processing them. The main thing that the Denver audio and Chan video did for me was to comfort me with the fact that I could possibly come down on the opposite side of Bell on this issue and not have to be a jerk about it. According to Bell’s critics, I was not permitted to do this, so it was nice to know that they were wrong about that (which, in turn, made me think even more that they could be wrong about the theology, too).

    So I’m in transition here. This link was pointed out to me by a friend, stating that how John saw the video was how he saw it, too. And I had heard good things about John (particularly the iMonk blurb about the “I’m OK…” book), so I decided to give it a spin.

    And so, I came into this with an open mind. And although I disagree with them somewhat, I understand and respect John’s main points. But *stylistically*, the *only* difference between this article and 90% of the Bell criticisms out there is that John’s snark is a bit more clever at times.

    Contrary to your definitive statement about me, I did not “come [here] all filled with [my] righteous zeal ready to teach everyone how wrong they are” — in actuality, I really don’t know what the h*ll I believe about h*ll right now. I’d apologize for not fitting into your cookie-cutter image of me, but (based on your other comment) you’d just say that I didn’t mean it and that it was just part of my evil plan. (insert Snidely Whiplash-like moustache twirl here)

  • DR

    And we’re at #4 or we’re rounding the bend and we’re getting close. I’m never surprised that people who lead with being a dick and get called out for it, but it’s always disappointing. Someday I’d love to be wrong, I really would, but I’ve completely lost faith in those of you with such a complete lack of tact and manners that you’d enter into a discussion with the bravado and arrogance that you displayed actually saying “Hey you know what, I was a jerk. I’m sorry. Let me start over”. But instead you get defensive and subsequently more hostile. . Let me punch your “I’m one of the good Christians and you’ve gotten me all wrong, even though I was a dick and won’t acknowledge that” card if that’s the validation you’re looking for.

  • DR

    PS – if you’re actually hear with an open mind, try not accusing the post itself with the sarcasm and a$$holery that you led with and you’ll be received in the way you intended. There was no confusion about hell that you communicated. You were just on the attack. Take some responsibility for how you entered in. It matters.

  • DR

    Ugh. Clearly I’m so demoralized by what I’ve seen by conservative Christians that it’s too easy to slip into the hostility that I’m working so hard to stop, which I own. I want to trust what you’ve offered here but you’ve no idea the damage that those of you are doing who feel so – I guess the word “privileged” comes to mind – when you enter a site like this so aggressively. My passion comes from feeling that I actually have to protect non-Christians from those of you who give yourselves such license to communicate like this. I’m protective of those who want to actually process what they believe about hell in reasonable ways without getting yelled at, without being accused of “not following God’s Word” or being a “false prophet”. It’s such manipulative BS and those who are actually trying to get real answers are usually too gentle and kind to speak up against those Christians who wander in here and do this, or start defending the heart and intent of Chan when it’s the *theology* that is important and what’s being discussed. As well as the preachers and their style while doing so.

    In short, I’ve judged you based on who’s come before you and the tone with which you begun. I regret doing that though in all honesty, the feelings of Christians who are feeling defensive are not the priority. Catering to the feelings of those of you who lead with your fiery, sarcastic sword isn’t my first priority, those of you who do so have lost a lot of trust for many of us. Watching the people who crucified Rob Bell over his promotional video literally made me nauseous. And many of them have come onto this site and attacked John much in the ways you did and all of those who don’t believe in God (for just that kind of behavior) are watching. I now brace for it.

    That being said, I’m open. I’m called to allowing you to have the last word on yourself. If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize. I’ll work harder at being kind. And I’ll endeavor to be more open-minded and respect you enough to give you that. that’s all I can do, a number of us are very, very angry with what Conservative Christian theology have done to the witness of Jesus Christ and the damage it’s done to our nation and a lot of its citizens and we’re being honest about that. I’m glad you said something and I hope I’m wrong. That’s the best I can do.

  • Suz

    ” but once you leave earth, it is too to change your mind.”

    What makes you so certain? Those who claim to have visited Hell, they didn’t have to stay there, did they? Believe what you want, but please don’t state it as fact.

  • Totally agree that we should focus on this live and bringing heaven to earth. Also agree with the statements that we really don’t know and for us in the life, we have the mysteries, but the mysteries should never take us off our mandate to love and know Jesus. After all, Jesus himself said in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Most pastor teach eternal life is heaven where we worship all day, but Jesus said eternal life was knowing Him.

    Along this same line, however, in this whole idea of knowing Jesus and the Father, He said “when you see me, you see the Father”. Jesus was perfect theology. I managed to read your three posts about hell, but none of them go into Jesus’ own eschatology. I’m not saying it’s not there—I see people have lambasted you with the verses.

    What I’m trying to say is that if you are want people to “please help [you] spread this word”, it might help to speak their Evangelical language. Like Paul on Mars Hills, the way to speak to the particular Evangelical culture is through the text and the Scripture.

    Like I said—I’m with you on the thoughts about spending too much time on hell when (if you really get into Jesus’ words, it doesn’t really become that much clearer), but to just have all our own (and by all, I mean, myself and the commenters to this post…not just you) thoughts and blogs and rants and comments, when Jesus did have some stuff to say about it. Some say Jesus himself talked more about hell than heaven (though this is disputed based on word studies and such) while at the same time, Jesus was all about giving the disciples the tools to live out the fullness of heaven, but bringing heaven to earth, hence sending them out by the dozens, and in pairs.

    Just trying to say—speak their language. It doesn’t help calling people dicks or other things just because they think you’re saying one thing or the other. The voice of John the Baptist in the wilderness was a hard voice and he got beheaded for it, but that was Old Covenant…and I wonder if John’s beheading reflects this old paradigm needing to die. Jesus brought the new covenant, rooted in love, but still had some pretty harsh things to tell us…

    Personally, I think we should forget all this hell talk and try to dissect what Jesus meant when He said:

    “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:37)

    Again—the issue is love. Love wins. Sure. Thing is, it actually already won two-thousand years ago. We just get to live out our lives in His victory. Because love isn’t just a feel good thing or merely an emotion. Love is a Person. So Love Himself won it all. The question is, what did Love tell us about hell? What did Love tell us about following Him and being a disciple? Let’s have a dialogue there and see where we end up, going deep into Jesus’ own words—I’m sure no matter what side we are on (liberal, evangelical, protestant, catholic, whatever), we would have a lot to chew on to really show this world what love looks like and what true discipleship looks like.

    Plus you might get some Bible-thumping evangelicals on your side thanks to your exegesis and help you spread the word. 😉

  • I returned snark for snark, and that was wrong. I apologize.

    Do know that there are Christians out there who are conservative theologically but at least try not to be jerks about it.

  • Franko

    So I guess we should just skip sections of the Bible, because they don’t matter to us Christians (or non). So are we really addressing Francis in talking about what is in scripture, or should we challenge the whole point of why hell is in scripture in the first place? He is just taking one aspect of scripture and making points on it. From what I understand watching the video (which isn’t even the book in the first place. And who cares if there is a co-author, as long as the theology is solid) is that Francis is challenging us to not put God in a box of how we think He should make decisions. I would say this article is more presumptuous than the video itself.

  • Chan is just the person to refute Bell and regardless if the book is co-authored by another writer, what matters most is that the response will be guided by truth and a loving spirit.


  • Mark Aguirre: You too cavalierly dismiss the fact of Chan’s book having a co-author. As I say in the essay, the all-important “and” between Chan’s and his co-author’s name on the cover makes unarguable the fact that, in this video, when Chan talks about how HE is writing this book, and about how HE is praying and thinking about this book, he is dissembling. At the very least he’s being extremely ungracious to his co-author. Either way, he very effectively bumps himself off the moral high ground. If he can’t be honest about something so simple — if he so clearly prefers putting (in a word) his ego ahead of the truth — then on what grounds should I (or anyone else) put stock in his speculations about God? If a man will steal a quarter from you, he’ll steal a dollar. Between the faux-Thinking Man Pose Chan strikes in this video, and his effectively claiming as his own work done by another, I fail to see how anyone can take him seriously.

    (And here’s a little prediction: before too long now we’re going to see that “and” on the cover dropped or modified. If that cover has yet to go to print, it might never see light of day.)

  • DR

    Why in the world would the Bible matter to non-Christians?

  • Shore: As you are uncertain of Chan’s motives for the book and promo video, I am too uncertain of why your blog was written. Yes, you may be trying to back up Bell (maybe but I don’t know) but in the same light I could be trying to back up Chan. Also, in further inspection I think you might be right that it was a little odd that Chan did not mention a co-author. However, the purpose of a promo video (I’ve done PR work before) is to promote the book and its central message. Again, I’m not sure why the other writer was left out (maybe he didn’t want the spotlight) who knows. But I think the central point of the promo was hell and Chan did a good job presenting a biblical view of it. To undermine this by saying Chan is prideful or cunning only reveals that there’s a deeper issue you have with Chan (maybe I could be wrong). Ultimately, I’m glad I could write how I feel about the subject and get some awesome feedback and differing views. Thanks. 

  • DR

    And some blog hits to boot! (ugh)

  • I’m currently reading “Erasing Hell.” Just to ally your concerns about the “and” disappearing, the very first words of the preface states, “I wrote this book with my friend Preston…Truth be told, the majority of research was done by Preston.” He makes no bones about Preston’s help or a larger community. They also state that they’ve chosen to adopt Chan’s voice for the duration of the book. Just thought you’d like to know.

    As you’ve stated, you’ve been in publishing. As such, you should know people will buy a book from Francis Chan before they would buy a book from “Preston Who?” Publicity is what it is. Name recognition is what it is. If anything, “Preston Who?” has just positioned himself to become “Preston Sprinkle” to a lot of people, simply by attaching himself to a “name” like Francis Chan. Chan’s name comes first, Sprinkle’s comes second, the “&” is perfectly visible and prominent in the text I have here in front of me. Chan’s name is not larger. Sprinkle’s name is not smaller. Eventually, with more publishing assignments, Sprinkle will likely no longer need to be a second name.

    Just my two cents on the publishing side of things.

    C.E. Moore

    Cogito | Credo



  • John,

    On the posing vs. pondering thing: I recently sat down to interview the people at FLANNEL, the people who produced all those slick Rob Bell NOOMA videos and now the recent Francis Chan BASIC Series. They told me the process for both men were VERY different.

    When speaking about Bell, he’d do 4 or 5 cuts EXACTLY the same way every time. Every move, every word, every thing he did was scripted. He does this when speaking publicly also. I think he does it MOST beautifully in the final NOOMA video and in The God’s Aren’t Angry. However, when speaking about Chan, they said he was VERY different. They explained how they’d do 4 or 5 different cuts and they’d all be very, very different. He is a very “in the moment” kind of speaker.

    What I’m getting at is, given what I’ve been told (by Steve Carr at FLANNEL), while there may have been something Chan wanted to communicate, the fact he was doing it on video does not seem to affect the fact that he is actually pondering. Calling him a poser just seems rude and a missing of the point he’s trying to make (which is the subject of the REST of your entry). If anyone is posing while attempting to look like they’re pondering, it’s Bell. Even then, I wouldn’t claim Bell was any less genuine than Chan. In fact, given that Bell is partial owner of FLANNEL, there two thinkers are likely less polarized and antagonistic towards each other as those of us in the blogosphere.

    Just a few more cents. (I’m really commenting too much today).

  • Ronald L. Redder

    Sir: interesting comments, however, something unique is said so often that is never said in the Bible and not believed in the general (of the best) history of Christian theology, and that is that non-believers in Jesus all go to hell! I mean the stress in the Bible is that believers in Jesus have the assurance of heaven, but that those non-believers who have never had the opportunity to believe, fall into the hands of our God who will always do what is just and right toward and with them. The Bible clearly teaches that far more than Christians will be saved, such as the father of all the faithful, Abraham – but also many Greeks and Romans, and Indians, and Chinese who before Jesus’ gospel was revealed, lived and acted by their natural God-given sense of truth and morality, already revealed and found in the creation and life itself and since as well. Too much of this discussion fails to distinguish what needs to be separated and hold together what God has joined. Pax, rlr

  • Good article, John. Thanks for the thoughts. When I first watched this video I was appalled for a few reasons. First was the speed with which this rebuke was administered. 4 months from the publishing date of Love Wins. 4 months to carefully examine a text, formulate a response, write the document, go through editing and what not, printing, and finally in people’s hands. Seems a little rushed and cavalier to me for being such an important subject.

    Second, in a community that admires personal humility above most other attributes, it is greatly in your favor to be seen as the most humble. The subtext I read into this video is “I am more humble than Bell in basing my beliefs on God, period.” No room for interpretation or difference of opinion. Just plain old, I know what’s right because I trust in God’s word. But what about the role and influence of the authors background and encultured or acculturated beliefs about Hell that give one the basis for their beliefs? They just might have a little too much belief in the absoluteness of their own beliefs.

    As a former evangelical who gave up belief in Hell a while ago due to reading what the Bible actually says versus what my culture told me the words meant, I find it very interesting that so many people reacted so strongly to LW like they did. Defensive much?

    Anyway, thanks for the insider perspective on the publishing industry. I didn’t see the co-author name on the book jacket, only Chan talk about his humility in writing this. 🙂

  • Good article, John. Thanks for the thoughts. When I first watched this video I was appalled for a few reasons. First was the speed with which this rebuke was administered. 4 months from the publishing date of Love Wins. 4 months to carefully examine a text, formulate a response, write the document, go through editing and what not, printing, and finally in people’s hands. Seems a little rushed and cavalier to me for being such an important subject.

    Second, in a community that admires personal humility above most other attributes, it is greatly in your favor to be seen as the most humble. The subtext I read into this video is “I am more humble than Bell in basing my beliefs on God, period.” No room for interpretation or difference of opinion. Just plain old, I know what’s right because I trust in God’s word. But what about the role and influence of the authors background and encultured or acculturated beliefs about Hell that give one the basis for their beliefs? They just might have a little too much belief in the absoluteness of their own beliefs.

    As a former evangelical who gave up belief in Hell a while ago due to reading what the Bible actually says versus what my culture told me the words meant, I find it very interesting that so many people reacted so strongly to LW like they did. Defensive much?

    Anyway, thanks for the insider perspective on the publishing industry. I didn’t see the co-author name on the book jacket, only Chan talk about his humility in writing this. 🙂

  • Wes

    Here’s Satan’s response to Chan’s and Bell’s books. http://colbymartinonline.com/2011/07/05/satans-newest-book-out-this-fall/

  • Diana A.

    I actually kind of like this. Thanks for sharing it.

  • John, when you reason that–“This can only mean that any Christian who preaches about hell being real is broadcasting to the world that he or she cares more about being right than they do about actually saving anyone from hell”–does that mean that Jesus cared more about being right than He did about actually saving anyone from hell?

  • Shaun

    The thing is, is that God is not cruel. If we don’t want Him in our life here on Earth, why do we assume He is going to deny that right in the afterlife. We’ll still not want Him after we die. IF God is in Heaven, and thus we DON’T want to be with God, then it stands to reason, there’s another place.

    Since God is the source of Love, and Joy, and Peace, a place WITHOUT HIM would be one of hate, and misery, and strife. Thus Hell. God doesn’t SEND us to HELL. He allows us to go BECAUSE OF OUR FREE WILL. We send OURSELVES. All God does is tell us WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW.

  • casey

    Hi, thanks for posting this. I just want to say that Jesus seemed to talk about the reality of hell alot. I was not born into the church or an understanding of God until i met the Lord. He helped me grow in Him. I always had an issue with hell and questioned the reality. The Lord allowed me to experience ‘outer darkness’ for about 10 seconds, about 3-4 years ago. It is absolutely real. It was more real than i ever thought. The Lord showed me because I doubted the existence. I have another friend who has been to hell too. The place is very real. The truth is that the Gospel is offensive. The reality of Hell to many believers and non-believers a like are offensive. If there is no hell then there is no purpose in Jesus saving us. Regardless, I know that many do not want to tell others hell is real. I know because I have a hard time talking about it too but the truth is that if we tell people that Jesus is the only way and those who enter into eternity without Him will go to hell, that is the truth, there is no way around it and we risk people hating us, rejecting us and Jesus and being labeled as a ‘fear monger’ or ‘judgmental’. Jesus said that if they hated Him, they are going to hate us too. the most important thing is the heart in sharing, truth in love. Jesus spoke about hell and warned people not to go there but He also wept for the ones who made the choice to go there.

  • Clicking around the site seeing the recent posts… Maybe I’m responding to this becuase something spurred me to take a Wiki-Walk yesterday on Near-Death Experiences, something I’ve never had but have an interest in. I haven’t read either Bell’s or Chan’s books, but I’ve poked around Christian Universalist apologetics sites and remembering stuff from them, it leaves me with the question…

    The “outer darkness” you experienced – you aren’t still in it, are you? You escaped it, right? It was just a little taste and not something eternal. What the Universalist sites bring up is how often Fundamentalists preach that Hell is “inescapable” – as in, once you’re there, you’re there. The idea that people have NDE-type experiences in which they go there but come back would suggest not inescapable, something that God can pull you out of anytime he wants.

    This makes me think, if Hell is real, maybe the only people who are there for eternity (as defined by the conventional idea of “endless time” or “forever” rather than say, something that just “feels like forever” but isn’t) are there because they *want* to be forever and ever, too proud to cry out to God, shunning Love, and suchlike.

    I mean, I don’t know. I define myself as an “agnostic Christian” of late. Most people when they hear the word “agnostic” think “athiest without balls” but my agnosticism is very different, it’s more like “core believer with honest doubts she’s honest about.” I feel like if having honest doubts kicks me out of the promise I feel Jesus made to me when I first accepted him, I might rather go to the outer darkness, anyway. So, I’m hoping God really is merciful in the end (though as said elsewhere on this site, I have doubts about the benevolence of God, too).


  • DR

    You’re not addressing the actual content in the post, just what you think was said.

  • I am currently co-authoring a book on this subject, so this is very interesting to me. My wife posted a link to Chan’s remarks, I’m assuming are based on this co-authored book (I haven’t been able to open the link). So I can’t speak intelligently on the book, or Chan. I may not even be able to speak intelligently on the subject of hell. I’ll let others be the judge of that.

    I only know, as a psychologist, and as one who grew up in religious circles where hell was used to scare people into becoming “saved,” that fear doesn’t produce the desirable types of “fruits” discussed in the Bible. The result of scaring people, is creating a congregation of conformists, who are constantly trying to remain in God’s good graces, and who cannot approach God openly, freely, and transparently. Therefore, an intimate experience with God is impossible to establish. Think about a man who asks his girl to marry him. He tells her he loves her, but he says if she denies him, he will turn her over to a terrorist who will torture her for the rest of her life. Now multiple the terrorist threat by infinity, and you’ll begin to see what kind of basis the threat of hell is for establishing and maintaining a relationship with one’s heavenly father.

    There’s something just not quite right about this hell-fire-and-brimstone picture of eternity for the lost.

  • Francis chan would be different from most because he would say that many “christians” are not on their way to heaven. he teaches that if you don’t radically serve the least of these, then you don’t bear fruit, and if you don’t bear fruit, you were never saved. I found the local chan church people to be very very different from most evangelicals because they actually tried to act like jesus all the time. they also took the bible literally and saw god as this bipolar half angry half loving wierdo…but it was a nice change.

  • Farren Dykes via Facebook

    For those of us who like him, here’s a link to get 3 of his books for kindle free! http://www.couponing101.com/free-francis-chan-kindle-ebooks-crazy-love-forgotten-god-and-erasing-hell/

  • Bmac

    This is a great thought. It makes a lot of sense.

  • Paula

    John, I can’t tell you how many times that I come back to this. This, my brother, is incredibly rich and wise. Thank you thank you thank you.

    The logic you use is so profound and yet still quite simple. It’s hard for me to find grace with and for so many Evangelicals that act with such stupidity.

    You have really outdone yourself here! (this and What Are We, Six?! Another favorite of mine!)

    Blessings to you as you remember, reflect and continue to hope in the redeeming power of a loving Daddy.

  • Mariah

    AGREED. Oh, I cannot agree enough, John.

    I’ve been through so many stages of belief and nonbelief and back and forth again and again. This topic is one of the top reasons I struggle with the faith. There are others, of course, but I have never believed in hell. Even in times when I do believe in some kind of hell, my concept of it has always been this: We either go to Heaven, or our corpses rot in the ground until there’s nothing left of us. The thought of there being absolutely no afterlife is a pretty disturbing and HELLISH thought for me. How does one’s brain completely wrap itself around not existing anymore?

    I’ve never read a Bible verse that said we had to “get it,” just that we had to believe. We’re also thankfully allowed to question. Good thing, because I definitely do. Constantly. Whether I mean to or not. God gave us these amazing brains- I should hope He meant for us to use them.

  • Brena

    The awesome scary part of salvation is not the consequences but the grace. A belief that really will make you stretch to reach it is the belief in Grace. It is the concept that the author of our salvation gives it so generously.

    The only reason to focus on the fear of hell is to foster a fear of going against the crowd. The only reason to focus on grace and acceptance is to set people free to follow their spirit and work out their own salvation. That is scary because then God becomes their God and you are just another one of His kids. Our personal power gets reduced to reality.

    Humility: the real hell on earth we would do anything to avoid while we wear a fake version to look like the good guy as we harass others.

  • John, I love ya man, I read your blog and books, but I gotta say for the first time, you got it wrong dude. I believe you are doing exactly what you say you dont like done, judging a book by its cover. I have read Chan’s Crazy Love and Erasing Hell, and the statements you make are quite false, some of his stuff is hard to swallow, but he makes some really good points and things to ponder on, just as Rob Bell makes some good points in his book. I have a hard time believing you had already read Erasing Hell when you posted this blog, and I would hope thats not the case since I know you wouldnt want someone critiquing your books without having read them. Still love ya, John!

  • When I was very young, like 6 or 7 years old, every so often someone would start a “secret club”. There were always requirements to having a secret club: A place to meet, a charter stating What We Were For and What We Were Against, and most of all, a clearly-defined roster of who was allowed in and who was not. The basis for a secret club could be as simple as the fact that I knew four other kids who watched Speed Racer, and we’d come up with a way to identify with each other, and there would be an exhaustive trivia challenge that someone would have to pass to be able to join (if you didn’t know that Racer X was secretly Speed Racer’s brother, you were laughed out of the meeting place). There were always kids who took these things WAY too seriously, and wouldn’t socialize with anyone outside of our Super Awesome Speed Racer Fan Club and looked down on those outside of our circle.

    Someone’s mom would always suggest that we should be more inclusive but we’d collectively roll our eyes and scoff at how grown ups didn’t get it, because the secret clubs would only function if there were people on the OUTSIDE who we could be AGAINST. The kids who watched Scooby Doo, or Batman, for example. They didn’t get it, and half our meeting time would be taken up by talking about how those other cartoons sucked and those other kids were idiots and how we were just glad not to be like THEM. If you weren’t nice or someone in the club didn’t like you or you dressed weird or didn’t share your lunch, you weren’t allowed in the club no matter how much you knew about Speed Racer, because you weren’t one of us. And in the end it became less about Liking Speed Racer than it was just closing our circle and not letting anyone else in. We defined ourselves more by what we were against than by what we stood for.

    To me, that’s what the traditionally-held belief in Hell is all about. It’s about “The Other,” the one we’re against, the one not like us, who isn’t allowed in the Clubhouse. We may talk about Grace as being God’s unmerited favor, something we can’t earn and don’t deserve, but that only covers US. We can live our lives free from worry because we believe the right way and go to the right church. It doesn’t count for Muslims, or gays, or poor people. They’ll always be excluded unless they get on board with our entire belief system, our politics, and our social agenga. This is what drive our belief in Hell, because we can’t stand the thought of having to spend Eternity with people who we don’t like or agree with.

  • Allie

    Weirdly enough, most of the fundies I know would argue the opposite point: why would anyone want to become a Christian if you didn’t first scare them into being terrified of going to hell?

    I don’t follow their argument and I agree with yours. But the thing is, apparently their argument makes sense to them. Not all people are the same, some people are natural authoritarians, and to those people, doing the right thing is something you only do because otherwise you will be punished. These are the people who truly and honestly believe that if being gay isn’t illegal, straight people will turn gay because nothing will stop them. There’s a long history of preachers successfully converting people by preaching hellfire and damnation. It provably works – for some people.

    My question then would be, does it really work? Is what those people convert to truly Christianity? The Bible says we are called to be children, not slaves, to act like our father because we understand his goals, not because he ordered us and will punish us if we disobey. How can a terror of going to hell lead to an understanding of the love of God?

  • I don’t understand how seeing God as bi-polar angry-loving can be a “nice change.” A change from what?

  • Lordship Salvation is a big part of Chan’s background as a McArther student. While some great insight is found in his book and doctrine, I find it hard to accept the Lordship Salvation blend which basically says, “to be REALLY saved, you need to accept Christ AND be and act a certain way. If not, you can’t be saved.” I am simplifying this to fit this venue, but it’s really a Grace + Works stand and to me, who believes when Jesus said, “It is Finished” He meant it. When Jesus said we can never be stolen from His hand, that there is no condemnation in Christ, I believe Him. So to hear or read “you can lose your salvation is you don’t do x, y, z” found in books like Crazy Love, I cringe. And I have read these books. So that is MY take on it, though I would never say NOT to read these books as I also know Christians have the Holy Spirit inside to guide and show them Truth.

  • Ian: I was very careful not to say a single word about the book itself. I addressed only the video. So I can’t have actually been “quite false” about the book, cuz, as I say, I didn’t say anything about the book.

  • Deana Minard-Rivera via Facebook

    I got 3/4 of the way through Crazy Love and put it to rest. I found that taking my focus off of Jesus was tragic. Francis Chan’s attempt to get people to act better and do more “for God” is a diversion. I have no doubt that Francis Chan is well-meaning, but his focus on the physical realm is disturbing. How can he seriously say he can stand at a funeral and KNOW if the person in the coffin is heaven bound and if their friends and family are covered by the blood of Christ? Does he have a magic mirror? Does the Bible not clearly state that man looks on the outside, but God looks at the heart? Does it not say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”?

  • Ian, John didn’t make a single reference to the book.

  • Diana A.

    Yup. Mark nails it!

  • Diana Avery via Facebook

    “I was pleased to learn this post, and my e-book ‘Hell No!’, are offered as resources on the webpage for the upcoming Kevin Miller documentary ‘Hellbound’ (which I was originally scheduled to be IN, actually).” So, I’m glad your writings are being offered as resources but how come you’re no longer in the movie? Did your section just end up on the cutting room floor or is there more too the story than that? Or is it none of my business?

  • @Diane- He didnt need to, he was stating that he knew what Chan’s viewpoint on hell was before he wrote the book, and was trying to vilify Chan because he didnt agree with Chan’s stance on hell based on assumed “pretentiousness” of the video. Again I admire John and his compassion and understanding of many issues but I felt he did his fellow brother a disservice by lambasting his view on hell, not only before KNOWING his viewpoint, but basing it on an assumed pretense of Chan, not by the actual content of the book. As much as John fights against exclusivity (which I think he does quite well) many followers, for lack of a word “groupies,” are so in awe of John that they fight anyone who may disagree with him. This is the kind of mentality that is, and will continue to separate the followers of Christ. Instead of seeking God for understanding we seek out “like thinkers,” establish a comfortable doctrine, and defend that doctrine til death. I dont need to explain myself to any of you, but I believe God is so much bigger than John Shore, Francis Chan, or Rob Bell, and I truly believe that God uses the humility that these and others writers and thinkers possess, and creates dialogue that produces thought, not divisiveness within believers, for the greater good of God’s kingdom. Those who defend a certain theology/doctrine so stubbornly become the same narrow-minded Apathetics they fight so hard against.

  • Ian

    I’ll give you that. Maybe I didnt word my statement correctly. I think the greater picture that I thought was being painted was that you stated that you think Chan’s viewpoint on hell was wrong based on a assumed pretense you saw in his video. Im not saying I agree with his viewpoint on hell or yours, it was the air of divisiveness and I felt was exactly what you fight against, the exclusionary “I’m right and youre not,” without even knowing where Chan stood on hell.Im honestly not trying to incite anything, I just know you have a large following and quite a bit of influence (whether you like it or not 🙂 and I felt you did your fellow christian brother a disservice that I know you wouldn’t, as an author to be done to you. But in the end, thats my opinion, and it means as much as its worth.

  • Ian

    Sorry, this was supposed to be a reply to John’s reply below , to my reply 🙂

  • But I didn’t base any thought I expressed about Chan’s thoughts on a “presumed pretense.” I based it upon what he actually says in this video.

    And I don’t have a problem with explaining why I believe someone is wrong when I’m confident they are. As a moral being, in fact, I believe it’s my obligation to do so, particularly around matters having to do with God. Whether or not that ends up being “divisive” is simply not a huge concern of mine.

  • Kevin scheduled a shoot with me last October. But when the time came he ended up already having enough footage for his movie, so he didn’t need me. When he first booked me there was a lot of energy around the work I was doing on the subject of hell; six or so month later, I think, honestly, that (besides the truth of how much film he already had) he may have felt that I wasn’t quite famous enough to make room for, basically. I mean, I just figure that. But it’s cool. I know he’s kicking himself for not using me now. 🙂

  • See my answer above.

    But real quick (and again): everything I wrote was in response to something Chan very clearly says in the video: I didn’t presume or assume anything at all.

    And it’s absurd to think it’s more important not to be divided than it is for people to do and say what they think is morally correct. I don’t care if Christians are divided about whether or not there’s a hell, or whether or not gay people are necessarily destined for it. I’d rather be with half the people who believe what I do than have to pretend I’m in any way okay with beliefs that inevitably end up victimizing people who deserve better.

    I hate that creepy, soft, wishy-washy, spineless “conviction” that values “getting along” above doing and saying what’s actually right.

    And I don’t have “groupies.” I have readers who share my values, and like the way I tend to write about them. They’re a long way from mindless, swooning followers.

  • Ian

    Wow John,

    I know you dont care and you dont need to, but this saddens me. I dont know why, but some how you have turned a statement in which I was trying to state that I thought you were being unrightly unfair to another author, you have somehow labeled me, judged what I believe and fought against me.

    I never said it was more important to not be divisive than loving, I just believe unity between believers is just as important pragmatically as it is biblically. Im not saying everyone should agree, but that we should come together with humility, not arrogance.

    I separated myself from the conservative church of which I grew up, and am currently fighting against it for the same reasons you do it John, but you are using the same words that they use, like “…it’s absurd to think it’s more important not to be divided than it is for people to do and say what they think is morally correct,” and “I hate that creepy, soft, wishy-washy, spineless “conviction” that values “getting along” above doing and saying what’s actually right.” I could see a conservative fundamentalist easily saying those same words about their theology.

    You have made me reconsider a lot of doctrines I previously considered correct, also seeing the kind of compassion you have for people that have been hurt by the “fundamentalist” Christianity has been amazing, and I would never want to take that away from you, but your reaction to my comments are a mirror image of the kind of reaction I get from my fairly fundamental family members when I post YOUR articles on FB. It is an air of arrogance and “assurance”, that they are correct in their theologies. What saddens me about both, and what definitely saddened Jesus, was when dogma was given priority over human beings.

    I respect the fight and passion that you have to remove the misconceptions of God, christianity and all that surrounds that, but we are all susceptible to believing that we understand God fully and know exactly where he stands on everything, but I am reminded daily by Corinthians 13 “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” Also just as Chan quoted in the video that has caused all this disunity, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the LORD. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

    Finally, I didnt say that your “followers” are mindless and swooning, but I have read the blog long enough to see that if someone disagrees with you, there tends to be alot of criticism aimed at them.

  • Annnnnnd now I give up. (And if you want to be generous to me, Ian, please do me the favor of not again responding here. I just don’t have the time/energy for it. Thanks.)

  • Ian

    I dont want to go into such an amazing day tomorrow with any of this negativity, I want to release any resentments, conscious or not, and I apologize if Ive caused you to be defensive in any way. We are all in the same family and I need to be reminded of that daily. I pray for a blessed Resurrection day for you, John.

  • DR

    So you put words in his mouth and paraphrased him instead of addressing his points verbatim. That would annoy just about anyone, but a writer? Don’t do that to a writer. It’s really simple.

    And frankly, I disagree with John all of the time, sometimes aggressively. I just don’t like it when people here jump into a conversation, insert meaning into his (or anyone’s mouth) and then ask said person to defend the point they didn’t make. The point *you said* they made. It’s crappy to do but it’s really crappy to do with a writer. See that point or not, up to you. But debate people on their actual words, not what you think they are saying.

  • DR

    PS you’re a dick for calling people “groupies”. Why those of you think it’s ok to do that and then quote a bunch of scripture is so unsettling to me. It’s passive-aggressive behavior. Check yourself. And before you dismiss me because I called you a dick, consider who threw the first name out and don’t give yourself a pass for it.

  • DR

    “I apologize if I’ve caused you to be defensive”. Unbelievable. How about you apologize for the behavior *that caused* the reaction. It’s called “taking responsibility for the impact of your words”.

    The passive-aggressive nature of Christians is astounding.

  • Ian

    Im sorry that I insulted you DR, and anyone else who I insulted. And john, ill respect your request and not respond on your blog any longer.

  • DR

    Thanks Ian, I appreciate that. I was tough on you with intention – reading carefully and debating that point that was actually offered is a huge, huge part of the online experience here. Christians often feel like we can just kind of “gloss over” someone’s perspective and insert our own meaning – it’s part of our privilege – and sometimes it takes someone yelling at us a little to wake us up. You seem really great and I hope we’ll connect better on another topic (John seemed to say that he preferred you not respond on *this particular topic) but I’m sure he’ll be happy to clarify. My first comment here caused me to be blocked by him! But it was because I was being such a jerk myself. So give it another go, you were clearly well-intended. Happy Easter!

  • No, I don’t care if you respond on my blog; you’re welcome to. I just didn’t want you to respond to that one particular exchange we were having. But that little thread is over. It seems like you guys are engaging well.

  • J.

    I disagree with being silent about Hell. Hell is spoken of in the Bible a numerous amount of times especially in the New Testament. Jesus spoke of Hell as well; and if Jesus warned people and told people about Hell, shouldn’t we so called Christians do the same? If Hell is (and should be a reality) for Christians then they should follow the same foot steps that Jesus walked and warn them about Hell, it doesn’t have to be alarming, or ‘fear mongering’. Would it be fear mongering to say your going to be driving off the cliff falling to your own death, if you don’t break and turn around right at this moment? Absolutely not, then why would we Christians hold our tongue, and worry more about what people think whether they be dismayed or not? When we should be warning them of dangers of living a sinful life of trying atone yourself with ‘righteous’ deeds; if we don’t then one could argue the same point, just as mentioning Hell might not ‘appeal’ to people, the not mentioning Hell might appeal to people but lead them to walk a complacent path to Hell with no conviction. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? Shall not God avenge and serve justice to all wicked men?
    Point is we should worry more about whether we’re following Jesus, obeying and trusting Him or are we relying upon our own merit or actions apart from the will of God.

  • James Walker

    the writings of the Bible don’t give a single, coherent view of the afterlife. in some passages it suggests the souls of people who die in a state of “unrighteousness” will be imprisoned in Sheol or in Tartarus. in other passages, it indicates they will be burned up or annihilated. others intimate that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for everyone universally, emptying out Sheol and/or Tartarus and vacating the need for any such places of imprisonment.

  • J.

    Are you trying to say that Hell should be either or of the description listed in the Bible? Can’t those descriptions listed encompass what Hell is? And even though the description maybe vague to some people, one thing is for sure the Bible declares that there is indeed a Hell.

    “others intimate that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for everyone universally, emptying out Sheol and/or Tartarus”

    But what does the Bible say?

  • Very little actually. Words that have been mistaken for an eternal place of fire and torment, (think Greek/Roman mythology, Zorastarianism cosmology and a certain epic poem) are translated from the original Greek to mean Pit, garbage dump, or grave.

  • J.

    I don’t get how you’re addressing my point with this straw man argument definition of Hell vs why Christians should preach Hell, please re-read my first comment to see what I am stating…

  • James Walker

    I’m trying to say that if even the writers of the Bible had no singular vision of what the afterlife would be for the non-believers, how can we claim any certainty? Salvation, after all, isn’t about escaping punishment but about being born into a new life of Grace.

  • Its relevant, because that is what the Bible says about hell. Its not talking about an eternal hot place.
    That is a theology, not shared by all of Christianity, especially a theology that demands continual discussions of the concept, much less using this theory as a means to scare or coerce people into with the faith, or certain behavioral parameters.

    I see no value in “preaching” about a place that only instills negative ideas, used to promote fear and control and is counter to an idea of a God who loves us all.

  • J.

    I see what you’re saying, but what I’ve mentioned in first comment is that if Christians truly believe in the Bible they’ll acknowledge that Jesus spoke of Hell, so one thing for sure is that they have to believe in a Hell, describe it how you want, it’s the antithesis of Heaven, absence of God, misery, punishment, darkness, a bottomless pit, Hell.

    “Salvation, after all, isn’t about escaping punishment but about being born into a new life of Grace.”

    Then why call it salvation?

  • Christians can read the bible honestly and sincerely and utterly reject the concept of hell. They do not find it necessary for their views of faith, or God at all, and do not need a ying/yang scenario for an afterlife

  • J.

    “Christians can read the bible honestly and sincerely and utterly reject the concept of hell.”

    Then it’s not very sincere now is it? Hypocritical maybe, cherry picking, but they can’t truly be a Christian if they reject what Christ spoke of about Hell when warning people.

  • Ok. I’ll bite.

    Just what is the list? The list of things that make someone NOT a christian, even though they themselves believe themselves so?

  • BarbaraR

    A phrase I wish would vanish from the face of the earth: “they can’t truly be a Christian if — (fill in whatever it is the person thinks is the tipping point that makes Jesus say, “No heaven for you!”).
    I am so sick of the absolutism.

  • James Walker

    Paul described it as being saved from that “old man” who was lost, who was stuck in his sinful nature, who had nothing but the law and the law could only condemn. we’re saved “to” the “new man” who is in Christ, who is accounted as righteous not by his works but by Grace, who is free now from the law of sin and death to live a new life of Faith.

  • James Walker

    I should have clarified that wording. I meant to say other passages intimate that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price.

  • James Walker

    When Jesus gave the Apostles the Great Commission, He didn’t mention anything about scaring all nations with stories of Hell to compel them to believe. He said teach all nations to observe His commandments and then He promised to be with His disciples until the end of the world.

    I fail to comprehend why so many churches find teaching about Hell to be necessary or even productive.

  • J.

    “we’re saved “to” the “new man” who is in Christ,” Actually we’re saved from God’s judgement itself, not “save to the new man” as you put it. But by being saved we’re regenerated and become and new person, reborn from the Holy spirit rather than the flesh. Trying to make the Gospel conform to society, is what it is, idolatry, making God in your own eyes that is acceptable, palatable, etc. In that case then it is very easy to reject the doctrine of Hell. But, if you or any other person claims to truly follow Jesus and the Word of God, then we don’t have a choice as to whether we’re to be comfortable with “idea of there being a Hell” and if they believe the Bible to be true they must accept the fact that there will be a Hell, there will be judgement; trying to negate that fact in Christian theology would be leaving out a crucial part in Christian theology which is the Justice and Judgement of God.

  • J.

    There has to be an absolute, we can’t all be right. Obviously if someone starts murdering a committing mass genocide, slavery, and quotes the text of context from what is correct theology;obviously there will be an absolutism to measure up to. Also it’s funny because when Christians start acting “un-christianly” people won’t hesitate to point that out and quote scriptures in and out of context, but when Christians say starts condemning relativist and apostate teachings from so called Christians, we hear back off there’s no right or wrong. Relativist can be prone to hypocrisy in their world view and not be aware of it, which is ‘truly’ sad.

  • Why. Why does there have to be an abolute?

  • Why is that not sincere? I sincerely, and utterly reject the concept. I don’t joke about it, I know others disagree with me.
    And I am still waiting on the list of rules that determine what makes a true Christian

  • J.

    Yes I am going to say this..read the Bible look at the Life that Jesus lived, look at the apostles who walked and spoke with Jesus. The ‘list’ is in the Bible. A Christian should live the word, not only say it but, live it and believe it. If they say they’re a Christian but, drink and go to brothels, there’s a good chance they’re not. There can be a deceived faith where they believe only so much reject some of the crucial points of Christianity, like judgement, and that Christ is the only way to life and to God. They do this to fit in with society, to bow the knee to post-modernism, just to make their life easier. The early church did not conform but rather held fast to what they believed in and were persecuted for it. The essence of Christianity is Christ Jesus, following Him and believing in Him. As He said you’ll know them by their fruits. If some calls them self a Christian, but rejects the poor, doesn’t forgive, lives in sin continually without conviction, misquote text to justify their sin, or rejects Christ Jesus but cherry picks some of His teaching it’s safe to say they aren’t Christian.

  • J.

    “Why is that not sincere?”

    Because they reject what Christ taught and spoke of, and He indeed spoke of Hell a good amount especially in the New Testament. They don’t ‘sincerely’ believe what He taught, and they’re not very sincere in reading the word of God if they have to deny certain things that are written in there. In short they are not Christians, but spiritual relativist.

  • J.

    Please state that as a defense in a court of law.
    Also please read and re-read my comments thoroughly.

  • BarbaraR

    I disagree. God is bigger than man-made absolutes. God appears to many people in many ways, cultures, languages. I find it hard to believe that God only reveals the truth to a very small select number of people in a very precise way.

  • A good amount? No, not really, He mentions the grave, and death, some, he hints at an afterlife, that not even all his peers believed in. But a good amount? Nope. Hell, if it is translated correctly, which is debatable, no more than 32 times. Heaven, which could mean the realm of God, or what we now call space as many as 327 times..only a few of which is credited to Jesus.
    Money, as a word is mentioned 140 times in the KJV. When you add riches, gold, shekels, talents, etc, the mention count explodes. Interestingly, it is one of the largest topics in the Bible,

  • BarbaraR

    Christ did not speak of Hell “a good amount.”

    You know the heart of each of these people and their relationship to God, then, if you think their interpretation of scripture if different from what you believe?

  • I read your comment. I have excellent comprehension skills.
    In a court of law, all that is needed to declare innocence is reasonable doubt, or lack of credibility to innocence to decide guilt. The legal system is quite nuanced.

    Try again.

    Still waiting on that list.

  • J.

    “Nope. Hell, if it is translated correctly, which is debatable, no more than 32 times.” But you’re not going to deny he didn’t mention it now would you? What context is Jesus referring to when He mentions Hell?

  • J.

    To put the ‘list’ succinctly.
    Christians should follow and preach what Jesus taught, of whether it be of Hell or prophesy, or loving your enemy.
    To follow the Word of the Bible.
    To live and do accordingly to the Word.

    “In a court of law, all that is needed to declare innocence is reasonable
    doubt, or lack of credibility to innocence to decide guilt. The legal
    system is quite nuanced.”

    Yes but you’re not going to hide behind a world view to say that there is really no right nor wrong, everything is relative and there are no absolutes….in such a case that would be self defeating and if you’ve read my comment, hypocritical.

  • Skegeeaces

    People don’t go to Hell “just” for not believing in Christ. They go to Hell because they sin against a perfect, holy God in numerous ways; some which seem small and innocuous, but when you take into account how perfectly holy God is, are actually huge.

  • ChildOf GodsGrace

    Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

    4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

    5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

    8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

    11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

    13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

    14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
    MATTHEW 22:1-14

    Whoever has ears let him hear…

    This parable is directed to those who listened intently on Jesus’s words and even believed him to be from God as the previous chapter shows.

    When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
    MATTHEW 21:45-46

    We see that even in Jesus’s preaching he discloses details about the truthfulness of hell, even to those:

    1. who were invited
    2. who ‘attended’ the banquet
    3. but who were still unprepared

    Let this be a caution to all.

    There is nothing wrong with preaching the truth. Godly fear is a virtue. If you illogically allow that fear to have a crippling affect on your life, so as to be absolutely useless in the knowledge of the truth, that isn’t the fault of the preacher who spoke the truth in love, but rather, in our own inability to properly apply the truth in a fruitful way to our lives.

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding
    Proverbs 9:10

    Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them
    Proverbs 4:5

    God bless you all,

  • Jamie Worley

    So why preach about anything that spurs the lost to distance themselves from Christ? If I did that, I’d be Joel Osteen. I’d rather preach the way Jesus & Paul did it.

  • Nothing wrong with fear. We SHOULD have fear. A man who murders someone, before and after, should have fear of what the punishment will be like. We ALL deserve Hell, and if we are not in Christ, we will go to the Hell. To the Lake of Fire. And that IS just, and it IS love. Without hell, without doing away with evil, sin and all that mankind is when in Adam, and not in Christ, is a good thing. And we should fear it.

  • Well said. Jesus preached more about the reality of hell and the eternal pain of hell for the fact that we should fear it. We should see our wicked ways of thinking we can get into Heaven our own way, only to be cast into Hell where there will be gnashing of teeth.

  • Yup, fear is good. And there will be a hell to go to for those who preach wrong doctrine.

  • Not only do we sin against God in thought and deed, but being in ADAM is what also condemns us. Thankfully there is a 2nd Adam…Christ Jesus.

  • Because of being a new creation, and because of our love for our Groom we DO do more. People lack that. And it can be a bad thing since while we still escape this life into Heaven like a man escaping a fire with just the shirt on his back, we will be judged by what we do on earth and how we live for Christ. That is a very important warning. Being saved is just the first rung of the ladder.

  • Vanessa Benoit

    when i read such things regarding the perspective of fear i just can’t help but think…”you have no idea what anxiety disorder and adrenal problems are like…im trying to get as far away from fear as humanly possible while still keeping empathy and values in tact.” fear has done nothing….NOTHING…but harm me 98% of the time.

    but i should know by your comment that you don’t sound like someone who might have a reasonable talk. who knows. maybe maybe not. well here’s a shot in the dark 😛

  • Guy

    Your logic is not flawless because you fail to take into account of some very rudimentary and clear biblical truths. “Preaching hell” does not contribute to people’s rejection of Jesus because we’re born in a state of spiritual death/separation. The fall left all humanity spiritually dead at birth, therefore all humanity is already doomed. Preaching the Good News of Jesus’ sacrifice Who shed His Blood for humanity’s sin necessitates preaching why Jesus came to do it at all. The reason for that, which is plainly evident all throughout scripture, is because of man’s spiritual death and ultimate separation from God now and through the afterlife. If there is no consequences for sin, and nothing after death but bliss with no alternative other than being forever in continual blissful communion with Jesus, then it is ludicrous and stunningly “illogical” that Jesus would have come to do what He did on the cross. It is the Life Jesus offers, AND the warning of the eternal weight of their “choice” regarding Jesus which compels people who know Jesus to warn others of their current spiritually broken state, but also to let them know the good news that Jesus came to set them free now to become new creatures in Christ and live an abundant life with Him now that continues on into life after this brief one is over. People don’t like what Jesus teaches because it requires admission of their sin to acknowledge their need for Him.