Skip to comments.What Christians Get Wrong About Hell
Posted on 04/25/2014 6:35:42 PM PDT by Belteshazzar
I n a recent column, I explored some obstacles to the embrace of religious faith among young people today, paying special attention to the gulf between the often simplistic way that traditional churches talk about God and the pluralistic complexity of modern life.
Here's another obstacle: The overly literalistic character of so much of American piety.
My favorite example is the way that many American Christians think and talk about hell.
Jumping off from a handful of Gospel passages in which Jesus Christ speaks about "eternal punishment" for sinners in the afterlife, these believers conjure visions of a cosmic torture chamber in which those who reject God or commit grave sins without repentance are subjected to endless torment as punishment for their transgressions. It is a ghastly analogue to equally crude and comical visions of heaven as a place where the righteous are rewarded with angels' wings and an eternity of harp lessons.
This is very bad theology because it takes off from a deeply confused, though very commonly held, view of punishment.
(Excerpt) Read more at theweek.com ...
It is a good thing that we have complex, profound thinkers like Damon Linker around today. Whatever would we do without such?
Sadly, Damon is a little too much a child of "modern life," and does very little reading of things and people older than himself.
Sometimes the concept of hell gets people worked up. The argument on “How can a good God cast people into hell when they have lived a pretty good life” is false logic.
Hell is a place where God is absent. This is exactly what the people who rejected God all their lives wanted. The “pit” of hell maybe a very comfortable place where everyone who rejected God their entire lives must now reside knowing they had lived their lives in a lie. That they had wasted it all. That actually may be worse than a guy with pitchfork.
See our article the Christian Cram Course:
i find little valuereading what unbelievers think we believers, believe. their premises are always flawed and it makes the entire article off-base.
“the popular vision of hell as a torture chamber run by sadistic demons”
is that the popular vision? since when was the bible based on peoples misconceptions and fantasies Davie??
The devil does not wear a read suit...and hell was made for him and his fallen angels...not RUN by them...
these guys are such theological wimps!!!!
The serpent told Eve that God lied, sin and you will not surely die. So many Christians believe the serpent.
You will not surely die. You will live eternally in agony.
The serpent lied. The only people who live eternally are those saved by the Blood of Jesus.
Well that is certainly the version of hell that Dante painted.
As a contrite sinner, I am able and qualified to offer my humble opinion.
God is at the center of all that is. He is our happiness, our soul, our raison d'etre, and our being.
Anything we do (sin) to distance ourselves from him is agonizing. When we are contrite about our sins, we begin to heal.
When we rebel (refuse contrition)...we slide deeper and deeper into removal from the Light and the Way.
Apparently there is a point of no return (our decision to cross that point). Beyond that point lies Hell.
and the one that cartoonist have been copying ever since...
dante tool plenty of artistic license.
I suspect that is the image that post modern pop cultural types would be most familiar with.
Its hard to illustrate a non corporeal entity
In my version of hell I’m a siamese triplet between Michael Moore and Rachael Maddow.
Amen, and I would add that it is not a place of eternal punishment, but of basanos, or eternal torment. Christ died for the sins of the world, so there is no more punishment; there is only eternal bliss for those who accept His offer, and eternal torment for those who refuse His offer.
now.... THAT could get VERY UGLY indeed!!
Ive had neighbors like that I KNOW!
Isn’t there mention of a lake of fire?
This idiots rant is right up there with some of the stupidest things ever written. She/He has no inkling of what the Bible teaches on this subject, and probably has not investigated it in the least.
To her/he it is a balancing act, there is the justified by their actions apart from grace, however the Bible teaches that there is no one righteous, nobody, we all depend on Christ’s sacrifice as we don’t even possess the ability to do good.
Again, stupidest thing ever.
Believe it or not - Christianity is not about “appealing to the young people,” but is instead about trusting on Him for salvation and then living for Him according to His Word.
You can tell that the author is conflicted. He even has to futz around with gender neutrality, “How come you don’t say she? Don’t women go to Heaven or Hell?”, he whined.
The progressive left truly hates the very idea of Hell, and have tried to suppress it through most of the 20th Century.
Their biggest angle is to try and justify punishment based on humanity. That is, when a criminal murders someone, they are put in prison for breaking *mankind’s* laws against another person.
However, when the law is not created by men, but in heaven, the only judgment and possible mitigation *and* punishment *also* come from heaven.
An argument can still be made that heavenly laws are self enforcing, like how a parent tells their young child to not touch a hot stove. If the child does, and is burned, it is not the parent punishing them. The “sin” punishes itself.
But, if there indeed is a Hell for sinners, souls would not be sent there for violating mankind’s laws, but heaven’s laws. If this is the case, then sinners cannot bluff their way out or hope for “good luck” to free them from Hell. They are powerless.
Well then this makes me about 100 times stupider than the second stupidest person ever, since I am struggling a significant amount with “The Problem of Hell.”
I worry greatly that I will be in Hell forever, since I am not certain whether God exists or not. And how could God send people to infinite punishment for finite sins? Because He is infinitely good? It just seems He is even sadistically punishing people. Maybe that will be my fate. Even 10 trillion years into my punishment, and infinity will not even have begun.
Those whom the little gods would destroy, they first make liberal.
I think that Hell is the total, complete absence of God. Eternal separation. I think this is so horrifying, that the popular depiction that God-mockers have of what Christians think of Hell, of demons tormenting them non-stop would be a pleasant respite.
I have often heard that hell is eternal life without God. In that same theme, hell-fire (and the fires of hell) is usually mentioned. That means BURNING to me.
Another theory is that hell turns into nothingness, as God "de-creates" that eternal soul and s/he ceases to exist.
I think I'll just mind my P's and Q's, try to help the down and out and REALLY pray for God's mercy.
While I am convinced there is a hell,I pray that hell is empty.
John the baptist said,Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.
Some believe that when Christ spent 3 days in hell,it was to preach the good news to those there.
The Bible states,That every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord.Through confession of that statemant we are saved.
I know there are those that will argue with me,and thats ok,I still pray that hell is empty.
I'd spend your time worrying about something else.
I read some Christian guy (not sure how theologically correct he was) talking about how in the end, God
WILL be everywhere, and nothing will be hidden from Him. But, for those that did not believe, or mocked God, or were against Him, there will be no place for them to hide from His light. And rather than it being viewed as a light of love, they will experience it like a light of fire. Exposing all of their sins, etc. Like back in the Old Testament where if you looked upon God you would die.
It doesn’t sound right to me, but I thought it was an interesting take on it.
Damon Linker is a classic example of the way stupid people over estimate their own competence and project an undeserved aura of confidence.
I always laugh about people who believe we live in more complex times than any other when in reality we live in the most relaxed times in all of human existence.
they shall go down to Hell in the chambers of death
depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels
For a fire is kindled in My anger, And shall burn to the lowest Hell; It shall consume the earth with her increase, And set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap disasters on them; I will spend My arrows on them. They shall be wasted with hunger, Devoured by pestilence and bitter destruction; I will also send against them the TEETH OF BEASTS, With the poison of serpents of the dust.
throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth
Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.
where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For everyone will be salted with fire.
I am convinced.
I hope it is empty too. I highly doubt it though, considering Jesus talked again and again of Hell. I can’t read the Gospels for more than a few minutes without Jesus talking about Hell, and how bad it will be for those there.
Thanks for your post.
On a serious note, I did have a revelation with that miserable experience. As I waited to finally board my flight back south, I watched a couple of families saying good bye to their respective loved ones who happened to be boarding the same flight. The families that were staying behind were very emotional and wishing the travelers a safe flight and crying as they hugged.
One family sat near me on the plane. A young couple with two cute little boys. They were smiling and very excited to be on an airplane, apparently their first time. The husband and wife were smiling and they looked pretty excited as well.
We taxied out to the runway, paused briefly, and the engines began winding up and we were rolling. I watched that flame from the refinery as we lifted off and in a few seconds, we were deep into that thick smog and the flame was gone. It was like we were flying through soup. A few seconds later, the brown began to lighten up and suddenly we were free of the smog. Looking down, I saw a sea of brown. Looking up, I saw the most beautiful blue sky with billowing white cumulus clouds in the distance.
It was then that I realized what death really is. I no longer fear death because, in my mind, I get it. Funerals are not for the departed. Funerals are for the families and friends of the departed. They are the loved ones left behind at the gate back under that blanket of smog. Our departed loved ones are on that plane, smiling and giddy with excitement of what lay ahead of them as they soar into the blue.
When my father passed a few years later, there were many tears. And though I shed quite a few tears of my own, I felt a sense of happiness and comfort knowing that Dad had "slipped the surely bonds of earth" and was now facing the possibilities and opportunities that awaited across that endless crisp, blue sky.
Just a thought. As you were...
God loves your father. God loves you. Don’t listen to these people who tell you he could be in eternal agony. They’re wrong.
I know what you’re talking about, I’ve struggled with it a long time, and for a time I believed that the doctrine of Hell was an obliteration of one’s soul, because infinite torture was incompatible with the prince of peace. Especially when this is coupled with the Calvinist doctrine of predestination which is certainly taught throughout the new testament.
Frankly, I don’t know how to reconcile it in my mind, Jesus clearly taught hell, more than any other person in the Bible, on the other hand he came to earth as God/man to “save” us, but at the end there are those in hell.
God is graceful and omnipotent, he knows your heart and the Bible teaches that if you believe in Christ and that he was the sacrifice for your sins you are now a new creature, reborn in a congregation of the redeemed and have no fear of death or consequences of your actions in life.
Christ said that his Yolk was not heavy, it was easy, and it is easy, he is your sacrifice, you could not begin to pay the price for your sins, only He can....but yet he teaches us that there are those that are consigned to Hell, and frankly I’m at a loss as to how that happens.
he Great Divorce is a work of theological fantasy by C. S. Lewis, in which he reflects on the Christian conception of Heaven and Hell.
“I am struggling a significant amount with The Problem of Hell.
Pastor Robert Morris recently gave a series about death and hell entitled “The End.” He explains hell very well explaned. Take it from him, you don’t want to go there.
The audio download is $5 for the whole series. Robert Morris is very easy to listen to and he addresses all of your concerns.
“Christ died for the sins of the world, so there is no more punishment;”
That is only true for those that BELIEVE in Christ.
― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
Thank you for posting that quote.
Where were we before we were born?
I’ll take a stab at this. First, God does not send anyone to hell; they choose hell by rejecting God. As a theologian once said, “The road to hell passes by the gates of heaven.” The essence of hell is the agonizing knowledge that you had the opportunity to choose heaven, but rejected it. The torment is psychological and emotional, not physical, and the descriptions of hell’s torment are metaphorical. God’s justice demands that those who reject Him receive what they elected. An even worse hell would be making people who hated Him live in His presence eternally. That people live eternally in hell is inextricably tied to His promise that humans have eternal souls. If He simply snuffed out those who rejected Him, then what guarantee is there that He will not likewise snuff out all others at some time? His promise must be eternal and unchangeable. Therefore, the promise of eternality must stand for both those who reject Him and those who accept Him.
◄ Revelation 2:17 ►
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
logically if there is no crime worthy of eternal punishment, then there is no act worthy of eternal life. It is a gift. Both are gifts. We accept which one we want. Evidence. I heard someone say, prove it does not exist. Evil or good. The Saturday before Palm Sunday I decided to read about where Jesus was before He entered the city of Jerusalem.
In Luke the last parable He told was about the talents. The last part of the parable jumped out at me. He said, “But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”
All they did “wrong” was not want to be ruled over. They wanted their freedom, I suppose.
Thank you for this.
I have numerous objections.
1) I personally am not sure that God is not just sadistic, but infinitely sadistic. If he punishes even one person for infinity that deserves a finite punishment, then this would make him infinitely sadistic.
The implication of infinite punishment is an incredible one, because infinity is something so awesome no human can understand.
So then why would anyone want to be with an infinitely sadistic God?
I feel like killing Jesus myself, to be perfectly honest!! Give me some wood, some nails, and a hammer.
I am so angry at him!! He has caused me so much torture! No human being has abused me so much!!
And please nobody tell me that I need help. I feel that the great mass of people who do not think about eternity need help. It seems like this something on which existentialist thinkers agree. We all are called crazy.
Perhaps I have a different God than the rest of you. Mine is a sadistic and torturing beast, who is worse than Hitler. You others get the exact opposite.
I have to stop now as I am getting visibly upset.
Thank you and everyone else who tried to help me, but my existential crisis is way too deep to fix in one evening.
A perfect meme to placate the “no consequences” crowd.
In C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”, the Senior “tempter” (devil) has asked his nephew, who is in training, “What is the most important lie that we can convince humans of?”
Failing in his first few responses, the nephew asks his uncle to reveal the answer, to which the Senior Temptor responds “That we don’t exist!”
I never knew Socrates was a Christian theologian.
Its popular culture that has created the confusion and comical imagery of Heaven and Hell, not the Bible. Any sincere person seeking wisdom on the subject will clearly see God’s will, plan, and purpose for Hell in His Word.
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:9 NLT
When it comes to the free gift of Salvation, God is not the problem. Its pride, and the rebellious nature of man under the influence of the god of this world.
Being cut off from Light, Life, and Love Himself was a living hell for me. Spending eternity that way would be unimaginable. Its good to be a child of God and free from fear.
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NIV
OK, looking through the various responses I received - and it was a tough choice, because there were several good ones - you win the prize for the most apropos reaction to the article.
Damon Linker truly is an idiot who thinks he isn’t.
I am afraid this is what we have come to in our era. It bodes ill.
That last said, having looked over all the replies, there is a certain sense in which Linker is simply an honest observer. If it is true that the “natural man does not receive the things of God,” (1 Corinthians 2:14) Linker appears to be one who simply does not get what he is looking at, rather like a goldfish in the aquarium in your home doesn’t get what he (or she) is looking at when you shake food into the aquarium, simply stand there and look at him/her or just pass out of sight into the kitchen, which of course the fish cannot imagine, never having seen a kitchen, much less taken in the view from your kitchen window into the world.
The trouble with the human perspective is that, uninformed by one who has been in the kitchen, so to speak, that is to say, by one who has seen what is outside of this creation (see John 1:18), the notion of God is informed entirely and only by what has been seen and heard and experienced from within this creation (what is within the aquarium). To think of God as One who is above us, who is able to look into our aquarium with understanding, as we are not able to do looking at His blurry and dimmed image outside, is a reality we are not ready to entertain.
That is the human dilemma. That is also the plain teaching of the Bible for anyone who cares to hear or read it.
That is the bottom line for us.
And yet this One whom we all have at times presumed to sit in judgment upon, even though by our own natural powers do not and cannot know Him, “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son ...” (John 3:16)
And that is, unfathomably, the bottom line for the God of, yes, justice and yet even more, of mercy who is ... whether we believe He is or not.
The task given the church by her Lord is to bring this otherworldly knowledge to a world obsessed with its own wisdom and understanding. That is the part Mr. Linker does not and cannot understand. He is not alone in this.
Thanks, and God’s Peace be with you.
But God did create us as souls with a spirit and a body. That soul, once created, WILL continue forever. It is God's will, the Bible says, that all are saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. What is this "truth" God desires that we come to know? It is that He loved us and, that while we were YET sinners, Christ died for us. God offers to us eternal life with Him by His grace - meaning we don't deserve it, earn it, merit it or work for it. We receive this gift of eternal life through FAITH. We receive His gift BY believing in Him and trusting in Christ to be our Savior.
We have ALL sinned and fall short of the perfection of God and because of this, God's pure holiness cannot allow sin to be in His presence. We cannot save ourselves, no matter how good we think we are or have been, it is only by the shedding of blood (death) that sin is paid for. Christ made that payment for us, in our place. That is why we can KNOW we have eternal life when we believe God and accept His gift of everlasting life. Those who think they can earn their way to heaven by being good or doing good works, are every bit as much rejecting the grace of God as those who do so outright. Hell is the place where souls go who have rejected God's grace. They are, in essence, paying an eternal price for their sins - separation from God.
This doesn't make God "sadistic", just the opposite, when we understand just how much He loves us and wants us to be with Him, we can come to know the joy and peace of knowing our Creator and walking in fellowship with Him both here and for eternity. It's a GOOD thing that you are aware of your need to know God and I will pray for you that you open your heart to Christ and diligently seek to know the truth. God is a rewarder of all those who do.