Hell And It’s Existence According To Alternative Christian Teachings

Hell And It’s Existence According To Alternative Christian Teachings February 8, 2018

Let’s talk about Hell.

heaven-and-hell

During recent centuries, most Christian denominations, faith groups, and most Muslim traditions have taught the belief in the existence of a Hell where some — perhaps most — people are sent after death for eternal punishment.

Christians differ about who will be selected to be sent to Hell. Some teach that people are judged by God according to their deeds while on earth while others teach that God’s judgment is based on their beliefs about Jesus at the time that they died.

This belief raises an immediate concern over those individuals who have never heard of Jesus or of the other teachings of Christianity.

How are they to be judged? Would lack of knowledge be a defence?

There are passages in the Bible that support both beliefs.

Hell is generally perceived as a place of eternal punishment. That is, people who are sent there have no hope that they will ever be released or that the pain inflicted on them there will ever end.

However, some Christians feel that torturing people in Hell is incompatible with a loving God.

Others believe that an infinitely long punishment for a person’s behaviors and/or beliefs while on Earth for a relatively short time makes no sense. It would be fundamentally unjust, and thus would never have been implemented by God.

Finally, many feel that freedom of belief is a fundamental concept in democracy, and that the punishing a person for their sincere beliefs is also unjust, even if they are wrong.

Many Christian theologians and clergy are now de-emphasizing the violence in Hell. They now stress that Hell is merely a place where one is isolated from God.

About alternative teachings in the Bible and during the first centuries of Christianity:

There is evidence that Christians in the early Church interpreted the Bible passages about Hell differently. They taught:

Universalism or Universal Salvation: a temporary Hell in which some people after death will be punished for a while, and then released, or

Annihilation: That people who do not attain Heaven are not sent to Hell. Instead are destroyed. Both their body and soul are wiped out, leaving nothing of the person remaining.

Some Bible passages that point to an alternative concept of Hell

The following verses appear to teach total annihilation. That is, no portion of a person will exist in any form. All that will be left will be memories of the individual and good, bad, and neutral impacts that they have had on others while they were alive on Earth:

Matthew 10:28:

“And fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Romans 6:23:

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 Corinthians 3:17:

“If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy ….”

2 Peter 2:2 refers to heretics who:

“… bring upon themselves swift destruction.”

Revelation 20:13-14 refers to persons who were judged:

“…according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”

Of course, there are many passages in English translations of the Bible that talk very plainly about endless punishment in Hell. Ken R. Vincent, writing for the Christian Universalist Association, said that these passages involve mistranslations into English. In the original Greek, the verses use the word “aion” and “ailonion.” Vincent wrote that they mean:

“… an indefinite interval of time, usually of long duration. When it was translated into Latin Vulgate, ‘aion ‘became ‘aeternam’ which means ‘eternal.’ These translation errors were the basis for much of what was written about Eternal Hell.” 

He commented that:

  • Tertullian (circa 160 – circa 220 CE), who is often called the Father of the Latin Church, was the first to write about an endless punishment in Hell.
  • St. Augustine (354-430 CE), the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, who had little knowledge of Greek, was “… the main person responsible for making Hell eternal in the Western Church.” St. Augustine wrote that everyone who was not a Christian during their life on Earth — even babies who died before baptism — would be sent to Hell for eternal punishment.

Resolution of the conflict:

The concept of endless punishment in Hell raises many problems, particularly if people are sent there based on their beliefs about Jesus, during their lifetime on earth. Some people have never been exposed to the Bible, Christianity, or teaching about Jesus. Consequently, they would never have had the opportunity to trust in Jesus as their “Lord and Savior” before their death.

Others die at a young age before they reached the age of accountability.

As mentioned above, a punishment of infinite duration for wrong beliefs or activities of a finite duration appears to many persons to be unjust.

One could attempt to resolve the matter by assessing the will of God through prayer. However, a pilot study by the religioustolerance.org web site seems to indicate that prayers to God generally result in the confirmation of one’s original beliefs. There may be no obvious resolution to the conflict.

References

Vincent K R. 2006. The Christian Universalist Association. The Salvation Conspiracy: How Hell Became Eternal.

The views presented on this blog are an extension of those presented on the Religious Tolerance website. The purpose of all articles is to compare the full range of beliefs and actions by people who are members of various faith groups within Christianity and other world religions, individuals who are NOT Affiliated with a faith group (NOTAs), and secularists.

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I’ve thought about this a good bit over the years and happy to see the question being discussed more openly and honestly these days. Here is one of several attempts I have made to nail down some of the most important issues at stake:

    https://jeshua21.wordpress.com/skeptics-corner/is-the-doctrine-of-hell-defensible/

  • a r tompkins

    no apostrophe in “It’s” in your title. distracts from your message and is confusing those of us who care. namely, “me”.

  • Matt Kovach

    Santa’s watching..,

  • Matt Kovach

    we have to tolerate religions, they’re everywhere

  • Glory

    John Wesley Hanson wrote many works on this subject. Google his essay “Aion-Aionios” to read the ancient word meaning of aion and check the passages in a literal translation of the Bible. The word “hell” is not to be found in the Bible. Instead 3 different words with different meanings are lumped under the word “hell”. The words are gehenna, sheol and tartarus.

    Gary Amirault has a site called Tentmaker devoted to addressing this doctrinal question in detail.

    Seth Tipton has a site called mercifultruth.com with more info and becomingone.org and Jones’ book “Creation’s Jubilee” expound on this subject in great detail.

    More books on this subject are listed on the EvangelicalUniversalist forum site.

    Universalism has been around since the start of Christianity. It took organized religion…organized by carnal Christians to gum up Christian doctrine.

    Of course, overcoming tradition once people have latched onto it is nearly impossible. Probably why Jesus Christ hated it. The flesh is weak and likes being set in it’s ways. No matter those are not God’s ways.

    God sat on the mercy seat on the ark. His mercy is over all His works and people are His works so be Berean and check out all the scholarly views, history and word etymology. Doctrine stems from God’s nature and He is higher than carnal people reason Him to be. So who is God and what is His nature?

    Was the early church penetrated by paganism to such a degree that the early church depicts God as Molech today in mainstream hell doctrine?

    Read Jeremiah. God says it was never in his mind to put someone into a literal fire and God is not a man to change His mind. So who changed Christianity onto this cruel doctrine?

    As I wrote above this is not an apologetics question. The truth is revealed in the history, ancient language word meanings, what God says about Himself and in His nature. Philosophy is vain as Paul said.

    So be Berean. Examine everything you can for yourself on this question before rendering a judgment on the Judge’s nature and remember men logicize incorrectly, too, sometimes. But there is no contradicting the meaning of a word at it’s time of usage.

    So meditate and think and research this question for yourself.

    Some Christians threaten unbelievers with hell. I have seen this done multiple times on line but men cannot read hearts only God can. Remember that. Only God can judge.

    And wouldn’t Christ have prayed in God’s will for every person ever born to be saved and won’t God honor that request of His obedient Son over the evil and sometimes insane will of disobedient people? Evil could be a form of insanity and the insane are not competent to decide some things for themselves so so much for free will being controlling. The word “free will” is not even in the Bible. Does it come from the mind of man? Dr. Jones writes a masterful analysis of the thelema and boulema in his work “Creation’s Jubilee”.

  • Sean

    Hell is that concept in Christianity that simultaneously forces you to hold on in terror and recoil in disgust. Ultimately, one compulsion wins. That’s a big part of how I lost my faith.

    Robert Ingersoll:
    “I despise that doctrine. It has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. It has polluted the hearts of children,and poisoned the imaginations of men. It has been a constant pain, a perpetual terror to every good man and woman and child… Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent,
    throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.”

  • John Gills

    I’m comfortable with the thought that, as a reverent agnostic, in a world with over 43,000 disagreeing Christian denominations, should there be a hell, I’ll have plenty of company.