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Hell! Are you kidding me? November 23, 2005

Posted by roopster in Bible, Christianity, faith, God, hell, Jesus, Religion, spirituality, Theology.
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I’ve always had issues with the concept of hell. Like most of you, I’ve pondered the question “how can a loving God send people to hell?” I should clarify that my issues really stem from the definition of hell taught to me in my Pentecostal upbringing. In this definition, hell is a place of eternal torment, torture, weeping and gnashing of teeth, flesh eating worms, flames, demons, and a host of other unimaginable atrocities. Add this belief to the belief that one is doomed to hell unless they accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, and you quickly have the definition of a very unjust God. Even in today’s age, there are still millions of people who die without ever hearing about Jesus and if they did, why would they accept him as their Lord? We sometimes take for granted that those brought up in other religions will immediately see fit to give up their faith for ours. How many Christians do you see easily converting to other religions?

Lately, I’ve read some very good studies on hell including The Case Against Hell by Mercy Aiken and a chapter in Lee Strobel’s “A Case For Faith.” It’s nice to see Christian’s standing up and openly questioning the belief that God will eternally torture those who just happen to be born in a Muslim country or in the East.

There are many doctrines designed to control people that are clearly unscriptural even for those who embrace the Bible as the Word of God. Hell, tithing, and submission to leadership are among the most dangerous of these. Of course, I should mention that I have seen have actuals photos of hell. Check it out.

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Comments»

1. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - June 26, 2005

Interesting…I especially found Aiken’s information enlightening.

Paul, at this point, and with your background and education, I believe it is time to start work (if not in progress already) on your own biblical works. Why not utilize some of these “scholarly” points-of-view, and offer a “proper” presentation of the biblical books (and maybe even include some of the books and letters that didn’t make the cut of the early stuffed-shirts).

Why not bring together a congress of like-minded individuals, and formulate a plan of action on this?

Just a thought.

D.

2. Roopster - June 26, 2005

BD,

Thanks. I’m not sure I qualify as a scholar though. So far, the thing I’ve mastered is how to ask questions. However, I do like your idea of facilitating a “congress.” That may be fun and worth exploring.

Paul

3. Monk-in-Training - June 27, 2005

It is very difficult for me to understand how an Infinite God could punish a finite person for eternity for a limited, finite sin.

I know that people say Jesus spoke of Hell a lot, but I think Gehenna is more of a trash dump than an eternal lake of fire.

4. The Heretic - July 3, 2005

Hell has always bothered me. Hell along with substitutionary atonement are major blemishes on God’s moral character. It says terrible things about God that God cannot bring redemption or justice except through violence and pain. No legal system imaginable would see it as just to punish someone for an eternity for breaking the law. Even lifers can finish off their sentence. I just think that if God is indeed praise-worthy that he should be able to mercifully deal with all of creation, not just the middle class white republican baptist soccer families who happen to have a certain epistemological disposition at some point or another.Congress huh? I like that.

5. Zoe - July 7, 2005

Are women allowed into the congress? *Big grin*

6. Bill - March 23, 2007

Let me take a stab at explaining why hell is just, and tell me what you think.

If I told a lie to my friend, my friend can stop being my friend, but he really can’t do too much to me. If I lied to my boss, he can fire me. If I lied to a judge while I was under oath, he can send me to prison. If I lie to the US government, under certain circumstances, I can be hung for treason.

The significance of the lie depends on who I lie to, but really anytime I lie, I’ve broken the 9th Commandment, and I’ve sinned against an infinite God. The infinite punishment comes from the fact that I’ve sinned against an infinite God.

The Bible says that God is love. If God loves people, He hates murder. If God loves proper sex between a husband and wife, He hates lust and adultery. We don’t go to hell because we haven’t repented and put our faith in Jesus. We go to hell because we’ve broken God’s law. Just like a good judge on Earth punishes lawbreakers, God is infinitely just and will punish those who break His law (the Ten Commandments).

Thanks,
Bill

7. Neil - April 1, 2007

Jesus talked more about Hell than He did about Heaven, so I’m sure it is real.

One myth is that Hell is for torture, but it is really about punishment. Big difference.

It is important to point out something basic to ground the discussion: A righteous, ethical judge has no moral obligation to pardon a guilty and justly convicted person. God is a perfect and righteous judge. He is the epitome of love and mercy, but He is also perfectly Holy and He loves justice. We are all sinners in thoughts, words, actions and lack of good actions. Just 10 sins per day for 50 years would add up to 182,500 sins. Now what righteous judge could overlook that?

We had an interesting discussion on Hell last week if you are interested – http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/03/25/exploring-christianity-part-4/

8. paul - July 26, 2007

A finite numbers of finite sins cannot be punished by an infinite punishment. This is not about the love/mercy of God, but about His righteousness.
I believed once in “everlasting hell”, but recently I realised how dangerous doctrine is. You don’t realise it’s danger until it “hits” you. And when it hits, it hits very hard.
If the hell is eternal, than the winner is clearly Satan and not not God.Also, in this case, God has neither infinite power, love, mercy and righteousness.
Some will tell that it’s man’s decision where to go. But, you would you let your own child to jump out of the window? I guess not. If he does something against you, you can a) forgive him or b) you will punish him, but only for a limited period of time.

I think that a good analogy is this: a person did a crime and he deserves 10 years in prison. If he knows the president (or the king), he can be forgiven (even if he deserve) and saved. If he decides not to ask forgivness from the president/king, he will be not saved and hi will spend 10 years in prison (he is not saved). In this case, he will pay for his crime. But, after 10 years (a limited amount of time) he will exit from the prison (punishment).
I think that if the man would live eternal on earth (if he would never die) there would not exist “life imprisonment”. Perhaps Hitler would get 1 milion (or 1 bilion) of years for what he did. But these years and the punishment will end.
Paul

9. byron zandura - September 23, 2007

Hello all,
I think the ‘sinned against an infinite God’ argument is weak. Finite sin does not justify infinite punishment. The wages of sin is death, not eternal torture.

For those who have trouble grasping this at LEAST start here:

A thorough study will reveal that the word ‘sheol’ in the old testament only refers to the state of the dead, the grave, the unseen state – nothing more. It’s where Job longed to go to escape his earthly sufferings. The idea of ‘two compartments’ of sheol is a man made doctrine that Israel picked up from pagan myth (go ahead, research it). That’s why in Luke 16:19-31 Jesus used this parable to turn the Pharisees dontrine updide down on them. That’s why no place else in the entire bible is the ‘two compartments’ doctrine mentioned. Also, ‘sheol’ nor it’s NT equivalent ‘hades’ is never referred to as a place of fire or torment EXCEPT in the rich man/Lazarus parable.

The word ‘Gehenna’ however is used 12 times on 8 occasions in the NT and the KJV translates it the same as hades – ‘hell’ – which is incorrect and very misleading. Of course Gehenna does (did) have fire in it day and night, it was the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem. Since it does have fire, it’s the only word in the bible that could possibly denote the traditional Christian teaching of ‘hell’.

Then you have to ask yourself why Jesus only mentions it a handful of times, AND only to Jewish people, and in some cases for just calling your brother a fool?

If eternal fire, or the avoidance of it, is the central theme of Christ and salvation then why was Gehenna never mentioned even once to the gentiles?

Neither Christ nor his apostles ever named it to Gentiles, but only to Jews which proves it a locality only known to Jews, whereas, if it were a place of punishment after death for sinners, it would have been preached to Gentiles as well as Jews.
It was only referred to twelve times on eight occasions in all the ministry of Christ and the apostles, and in the Gospels and Epistles. Were they faithful to their mission to say no more than this on so vital a theme as an endless Hell, if they intended to teach it?
Only Jesus and James ever named it. Neither Paul, John, Peter nor Jude ever employ it. Would they not have warned sinners concerning it, if there were a Gehenna of torment after death?
Paul says he “shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God,” and yet though he was the great preacher of the Gospel to the Gentiles he never told them that Gehenna is a place of after-death punishment. Would he not have repeatedly warned sinners against it were there such a place?

Dr. Thayer significantly remarks: “The Savior and James are the only persons in all the New Testament who use the word. John Baptist, who preached to the most wicked of men did not use it once. Paul wrote fourteen epistles and yet never once mentions it. Peter does not name it, nor Jude; and John, who wrote the gospel, three epistles, and the Book of Revelations, never employs it in a single instance. Now if Gehenna or Hell really reveals the terrible fact of endless woe, how can we account for this strange silence? How is it possible, if they knew its meaning and believed it a part of Christ’s teaching that they should not have used it a hundred or a thousand times, instead of never using it at all; especially when we consider the infinite interests involved? The Book of Acts contains the record of the apostolic preaching,and the history of the first planting of the church among the Jews and Gentiles, and embraces a period of thirty years from the ascension of Christ. In all this history, in all this preaching of the disciples and apostles of Jesus there is no mention of Gehenna. In thirty years of missionary effort these men of God, addressing people of all characters and nations never under any circumstances threaten them with the torments of Gehenna or allude to it in the most distant manner! In the face of such a fact as this can any man believe that Gehenna signifies endless punishment and that this is part of divine revelation, a part of the Gospel message to the world? These considerations show how impossible it is to establish the doctrine in review on the word Gehenna. All the facts are against the supposition that the term was used by Christ or his disciples in the sense of endless punishment. There is not the least hint of any such meaning attached to it, nor the slightest preparatory notice that any such new revelation was to be looked for in this old familiar word.”

Please study all this out for yourselves.

– byron

10. carlton figg - November 3, 2007

Hell is the state of a soul which is condemned to eternal separation from God. The Gospels and other scriptures are significantly evasive about Hell as a place of fire and brimstone (though Jesus did bring it up once, but only as a parable ), which makes one wonder if Hell is as important as our various churches make it out to be. But yes, I can imagine the horrible state my soul would be in if it was eternally separated from its Creator. But eternal and excruciating pain in the form of punishment ? Sorry, but that’s not my God !

11. Robert - April 14, 2008

Its threads like this which reaffirm to me that Christians are morally bankrupt.

12. Sinikal Saint - May 14, 2008

A thread where Christians (and anyone else who chooses to join in the discussion) civilly and openly discuss their beliefs in an attempt to understand them better betrays moral bankruptcy? Okay…

Anyways, I have my own struggles with the concept of Hell. I believe in it–between an understanding of justice and the Biblical witness, I can’t bring myself to be a universalist (as much as I’d like to be, sometimes). However, I think a big problem with this discussion is one which also often hamstrings discussions about the nature of the Atonement. It’s this hardcore forensic understanding of God and His relation to man. Laws–all laws–point to a higher moral ideal. Laws of the land against murder, while negative, point to a positive ideal of respect for human life, for example. The Laws of God are not only no different, they are the basis for this. When God gave the Israelites the Law, it was not just so they could follow a bunch of do’s and don’ts–it was to point to a higher ideal. Sin is not merely breaking laws (Jesus’ disputes with the Pharisees ought to show that much), but violating a higher, divine ideal. God doesn’t just have a huge list in His infinite divine brain of things He’d rather have us do and would rather not have us do. The Lord has an ideal of what kind of humanity we are to be, what kind of Creation is to exist. Our moral and spiritual choices affect our characters, our souls, making us either heavenly or hellish creatures–more like God or less like Him. Christ’s defeat of sin and death on the cross effectively frees mankind of its inclination towards hellish, self-destructive choices. This is why faith in Christ saves us–the substitutional understanding of the atonement is a forensic metaphor more than anything else (indeed, the truth of the Atonement can really only be described metaphorically). If we trust that God, through Jesus Christ, lifted up mankind toward Himself and overthrew the power of sin and death, then we are free to not be weighed down by our own selfishness and self-destructive behavior. Sin is corrosive to the soul, and when one passes on into eternity, the damage is done, and one’s soul is corroded and cut off from God. This is damnation, this is Hell, and this is what God ultimately rescued us from at the cross.

13. Robert - July 11, 2008

“A thread where Christians (and anyone else who chooses to join in the discussion) civilly and openly discuss their beliefs in an attempt to understand them better betrays moral bankruptcy? Okay…”

No, a thread where Christians pull out the old “hell is justice” bullshit.


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