Is God A Destroyer, A Torturer Or A Healer?

Is God A Destroyer, A Torturer Or A Healer? November 13, 2019

In my book “Jesus Undefeated” evidence is provided that – from the very beginning of Christianity – there have always been 3 different views of Hell; all based on Biblical evidence and supported by Scriptures.

Those 3 views were (and are):

*Annihiliation

*Eternal Torment

*Universal Reconciliation

Throughout the book I take great pains to explore all 3 views and to demonstrate that each was held by various early Church Fathers over the centuries. I also take time to explore each of those 3 views and provide a detailed overview of the supporting Scriptures for each in turn.

My goal is to educate Christians about the fact that – historically – the Christian Church has been of various minds regarding this doctrine. It is also to demonstrate that all 3 views base their beliefs on Scripture and that the Universal Reconciliation view was – for at least the first 500 years – the dominant view of the Church.

These points alone are worthy of consideration. The average Christian is led to believe that there has only and always been one view of Hell – the Eternal Torment view – and that any other views were considered heretical. [They weren’t].

Additionally, during those first 500 years of Church history, those Christians who held to the majority view [Universal Reconciliation] fought hard to defend various orthodox doctrines, including the Trinity and the essential beliefs expressed in the Nicean Creed.

In my book I go verse-by-verse to examine the evidence for each of the 3 views of Hell provided by Scripture. The goal being to address each of the 3 views as fairly and impartially as possible. As someone who believed, taught and preached on the doctrine of Eternal Torment, I am well-acquainted with the major verses that appear to support this view of Hell. So, I did my best to examine each one in detail and to present the arguments as I would have made them when I once defended that view.

I did the same when it came to the other two views, with as much impartiality as possible. Although I will admit that – over the years – my views have shifted based on my examination of the scriptures and the views of the early Church Fathers. So, my personal views are also on display when it comes to this topic. If no other place than in the subtitle of the book itself: “Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment.”

But, even beyond the scriptural study and historical examinations of these 3 views of Hell, there remains one very simple observation that I’d like to point out: Your view of Hell says something about your view of God’s character.

In brief, the 3 views are summarized as follows:

*God is a Destroyer

*God is a Torturer

*God is a Healer

So, if you embrace the view of Annihilation, you essentially accept the idea that God is a Destroyer. In other words, God annihilates those who do not put their faith in Christ.

If you accept the Eternal Torment view, then your view of God is ultimately that He is a Torturer. This view holds that God’s response to sinners is to torture them for eternity in a lake of fire, keeping them alive by His own power; refusing to allow them to be consumed by the fire but perpetually extending their suffering without end.

However, if you lean towards Universal Reconciliation, then your view of God is that of Healer. This means you see God as one whose response to the sickness of sin is not to beat His children mercilessly for eternity, but to heal those children by His own power of grace and endless love.

All 3 views of Hell agree: Those who die without Christ will pass through the fire.

The only disagreement between the 3 views is: What is the nature of that fire, and how long does it last?

But what is also at stake is the actual heart and character of God.

Do you believe that God is a Destroyer, a Torturer or a Healer?

The way you answer this question is ultimately what is at stake in this debate.

As for me, I cannot see God as a heartless, unmerciful torturer. I cannot see God as a destroyer [especially when Jesus identifies the destroyer as Satan]. I can only affirm that God is at heart a loving Abba Father who responds to His children’s struggle with sin by extending endless mercy, grace and ultimate healing.

Who is God to you?

Destroyer, Torturer or Healer – the choice must be made regarding the character of God.

I’ve made my choice. What is yours?

**

For more on this subject, read the new book, “Jesus Undefeated: Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment” by Keith Giles.

 Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife have returned to El Paso, TX after 25 years, as part of their next adventure. They hope to start a new house church very soon.
 Can’t get enough? Get great bonus content: Patreon page.
Are you an aspiring author? Keith is leading an Author’s Academy starting Nov. 4. Learn how to become a full-time author and crack the code for building your platform and marketing your books online. Details HERE.
Podcast: Heretic Happy Hour Podcast is on iTunes and Podbean.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ivan Beggs

    Framing the issue as making a choice about what one thinks is God’s character just shows that there is no proof. It is more like, just choose what you like. “Oh, I like a God who is…..”

  • CO Fines

    We have been given the ability to choose from the beginning, and the choice in one form or another comes down to choose life or choose death. Failure to choose won’t get many points in your life review on the other side. Jesus spent three and a half years presenting this choice and demonstrating what it looks like. We have his words to help us choose and we have his Spirit to help us choose. This is not like flipping a coin, there are better ways available no matter what level you are starting out at. We can also choose not to stay at that level but to grow as best we can in the Love of the Good Father Jesus knew and shared. All of Heaven stands ready to help if asked. Can we make mistakes? Certainly, how else can we learn? Paul would not have cautioned us to test the spirits and take only what is good if this was not possible to do with God’s help.

  • Nimblewill

    I like how Tolbert frames the whole thing. Either God wants to save everyone and can’t or God can save everybody and won’t. These are the only two options we have been given but there is a third option. The third option is heresy to Calvinist and Arminians but they do not consider each other heretical. One of them is completely false or both of them are false but both cannot be correct.

  • James Elliott

    It’s that ability to choose our destiny that keeps me from entirely embracing universalist thought. So strictly speaking God “can’t” save everyone because there are those who will, figuratively speaking, look God in the eye and say “no.” That doesn’t mean that there is a hell-fire waiting for those who don’t conform, as if God is hell-bent on throwing divine tantrums. Nor does it mean that they cease to exist. It might mean that those who don’t embrace what i call “Kingdom Values” (as demonstrated by Jesus) as allowed to create their own isolated worlds.

  • Ivan Beggs

    How do you know the statemens you made are true?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The problem with this dramatic scene of self-damnation is that far from being some miniature version of a defiant Satan in Paradise Lost, I am simply being an ‮toidi‬. To “look God in the eye and say no” I must have some reason for doing so, some reason why I think this a good idea, some reason why I think it is a better option than saying “yes”. If there is nothing good aside from God, and nothing in God which is not good (which is a fundamental to the Christian concept of God) then I am obviously just making a really silly mistake in thinking so.
    This kind of stupid, blind stubbornness isn’t some one-off life changing decision but something we are always doing, over and over again. The point of universalism is that we always, always get a second chance. If we won’t listen to him God waits patiently for us to realise we are just stupidly shooting ourselves in the foot for no reason, and then asks us again … and again … and again, until we finally realise how silly we are being (even if only by exhausting every possible way of being wrong) and say ” yes”.
    I think you may well be right that we create hell for ourselves to keep out God, but Christians have asserted from the beginning that Christ himself descended to hell to rescue us from the death brought about from sin, and indeed that that was the whole point of the cross: I can’t see any inherent reason why he’d let a little thing like us being dead allow us force him to abandon us forever to our own foolishness and ‮toidi‬ pride.

  • JD

    Do you believe that God is a Destroyer, a Torturer or a Healer?

    More like a megalomaniac.

  • The whole concept of infinite punishment for finite beings is logically unsound and hopelessly immoral. I think it was Anselm (1033-1109) who first proposed the concept of punishment based on the status of who was wronged (ie., God). The argument goes (based on medieval jurisprudence), since God’s honor and justice is infinite, the punishment for harming that, should be infinite as well. Makes for a pretty small God IMO. In modern times that would translate into wealthy or powerful people facing less punishment (based on status), than poor people. We see that happen often, for example, in how race plays a distinctive role in longer and more frequent sentencing for blacks than whites, or wealthy over the poor. We instinctively see the injustice in that.
    Secondly, while offering to take the punishment of another altruistically makes for compelling drama, it makes for an odd transaction theologically. …God is mad at you, must punish you, but because He loves you, He must hurt someone else, then He’ll be satisfied. So God punishes God. Psychiatrists will tell you people who hurt themselves have deep seated emotional problems. God has a terrible anger management problem. Maybe He should try therapy. But even taking the punishment for sin upon Himself doesn’t sate his anger, and He must burn billions in hell. Sounds to me like the sacrifice Jesus undertook didn’t take well!

  • James Elliott

    Human history is filled with examples of those who will choose evil over the good. Whether we choose to believe in a literal Lucifer, the story of an archangel who stood in God’s presence and said “no” is a potent one. To trust that, say, political leaders in Washington will simply give up their lust for power at all costs because they realize that there is a God, is naive. On the other hand, i agree fully with you that God wouldn’t let a “little thing like us being dead” (spot on!) keep us from entering God’s Kingdom. Everything that needs to be done will be done, but the final choice belongs to each soul.

  • It’s good to remember, as Nimblewill below reminds us, evangelicals can’t even agree on the doctrine of atonement, election and free will. Its a complete hodgepodge of conflicting theologies, meaning they both can’t all be right at the same time. Either Calvinism is right or Arminianism is right, or just as likely, they are both wrong. Throw in the teaching of the Eastern Church and Catholicism, and there is just no consensus. So lets not pretend that there is one “orthodox” view, when there has always been disagreement.

  • Aaron Taylor

    I just finished reading Keith’s book and it’s very good. I’ve taken the position for a while that it’s likely that all who can be saved will eventually be saved, based on the many Pauline verses that say that all things will eventually be reconciled to God. The idea of God eventually being “all in all” and “all things reconciled to Him whether in heaven or on earth” is hard to square with the idea that the vast majority of human beings will end up in an eternal torture pit, or even the more spiritualized version where people are reconciled to God on His end, but their spiritual deception keeps them locked in eternal self-torment forever. Still, I’m unable to say as categorically that Keith does that all will eventually be saved because of the sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, something that Jesus says will never be forgiven either in this age or the age to come and is an “eternal sin.” These verses seem to throw a canker in the idea that–categorically–all will eventually be saved and suggests (at least to me) that in order for the consummation to occur that some may be annihilated. I’m surprised that Keith did not address this in his book. It’s a hold out for me for going all in on universalism. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is mentioned three times in the synoptic gospels. One of the times Jesus says they will not be forgiven “in this age or in the age to come.” After reading his book, I suspect that Keith might say that the age to come refers to the post 70 A.D. church age and isn’t about the afterlife, but about those who failed to heed Jesus’ warnings about violent revolution. That said, the other two times Jesus mentions this sin–albeit a very specific sin that possibly could have only been committed by the Pharisees who saw Jesus in the flesh and called him a demon–it does seem that it really is an eternally unforgivable sin. So I remain a bit agnostic on the question on whether all will eventually be saved, but I’m a hopeful “agnostic.”