Skip to comments.To hell with Hell?
Posted on 04/26/2011 3:41:53 PM PDT by NYer
James Kirk Wall, author of Agnosticism: The Battle Against Shameless Ignorance, seems to think he has come up with a clever line of agnostic apologetics to pursue in getting rid of Hell:
Pastor Rob Bell is arguing that there may be no Hell. Would Christianity still be able to sell without Hell, or would membership plummet?
Heaven and Hell make up the greatest marketing campaign ever created by man. If you buy what were selling, you will live forever in happiness. If you dont, fire and brimstone for all eternity!
Uh, yeah, that's a perfect to way to put itif you're into flippant, theologically-challenged, and historically-illiterate snarkiness. Which I'm sure is appealing to many people. Personally, I've never had a problem with belief in Hell; my issue, as a Fundamentalist, was with purgatory. But once I read what the Catholic Church actually teaches about purgatory, as opposed to the all of the Jack Chick-type silliness I was fed growing up, it made sense. (In fact, the fact that so many Catholics dismiss purgatory as superfluous or silly shows just how rotten catechesis has been generally since the 1960s.)
My experience is that people (some of them avowed atheists) who are dismissive of Hell have both a faulty understanding of what it is and isn't, but also a warped understanding of who God is and is not (or what orthodox Christianity says about God). This is understandable to a certain degree, as some Christians do indeed portray God as something of angry old man who can't wait to shoot sinners out of his celestial cannon into the fires of damnation. But if there only heaven, or no afterlife at all, it does beg the question: can we really speak meaningfully about good and evil, as well as justice? The short answer is, "No" (as I touched on a bit in this post yesterday). Ross Douthat, in his April 24th column, "A Case for Hell", writes:
Atheists have license to scoff at damnation, but to believe in God and not in hell is ultimately to disbelieve in the reality of human choices. If theres no possibility of saying no to paradise then none of our nos have any real meaning either. Theyre like home runs or strikeouts in a childrens game where nobodys keeping score.
In this sense, a doctrine of universal salvation turns out to be as deterministic as the more strident forms of scientific materialism. Instead of making us prisoners of our glands and genes, it makes us prisoners of God himself. We can check out any time we want, but we can never really leave.
The doctrine of hell, by contrast, assumes that our choices are real, and, indeed, that we are the choices that we make. The miser can become his greed, the murderer can lose himself inside his violence, and their freedom to turn and be forgiven is inseparable from their freedom not to do so.
As Anthony Esolen writes, in the introduction to his translation of Dantes Inferno, the idea of hell is crucial to Western humanism. Its a way of asserting that things have meaning that earthly life is more than just a series of unimportant events, and that the use of one mans free will, at one moment, can mean life or death ... salvation or damnation.
Hell make perfect sense if we have a sense of perfection desired, a hope for justice fulfilled, and a recognition of free will granted. To quote, once again, from Benedict XVI's Spe Salvi:
To protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful. A world without God is a world without hope (cf. Eph 2:12). Only God can create justice. And faith gives us the certainty that he does so. The image of the Last Judgement is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope; for us it may even be the decisive image of hope. Is it not also a frightening image? I would say: it is an image that evokes responsibility, an image, therefore, of that fear of which Saint Hilary spoke when he said that all our fear has its place in love. (par. 44)
Returning to Wall's question, I think that much of the evidence is in: those churches and Christian groups that deny the existence of Hellthat is, the real possibility of being able to freely reject God to live with that choice for eternitydon't have much long-standing appeal. Mainline Protestant denominations that have abandoned belief in Hell (along with other basic doctrines) are dying or dead. Why? There is the matter of Jesus and the New Testament writers making plenty of references to Hell; there is also the nagging suspicion (confirmed, upon thought and investigation) that promising heaven without the need to freely choose love, life, and goodness is a cop-out, a con job, and a contradition. It fails to make sense of sin and it fails to provide real hope:
From the earliest times, the prospect of the Judgement has influenced Christians in their daily living as a criterion by which to order their present life, as a summons to their conscience, and at the same time as hope in God's justice. Faith in Christ has never looked merely backwards or merely upwards, but always also forwards to the hour of justice that the Lord repeatedly proclaimed. ...
In the modern era, the idea of the Last Judgement has faded into the background: Christian faith has been individualized and primarily oriented towards the salvation of the believer's own soul, while reflection on world history is largely dominated by the idea of progress. The fundamental content of awaiting a final Judgement, however, has not disappeared: it has simply taken on a totally different form. The atheism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries isin its origins and aimsa type of moralism: a protest against the injustices of the world and of world history. A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God. A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God, much less a good God. It is for the sake of morality that this God has to be contested. Since there is no God to create justice, it seems man himself is now called to establish justice. If in the face of this world's suffering, protest against God is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false. It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim. A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope. (Spe Salvi, 41, 42)
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Links:
Hell and the Bible | Piers Paul Read | An excerpt from "Hell" in Hell and Other Destinations
The Brighter Side of Hell | James V. Schall, S.J.
Socrates Meets Sartre: In Hell? | Peter Kreeft
Are God's Ways Fair? | Ralph Martin
Scripture makes it very clear that Hell is real and waiting for those who do not repent.
If there is no Hell;, then there can be no Heaven.
Something to think about.
Actually our pastor tells of a time he was flying somewhere and looked up the words Hell, Sheol, Gehenna, netherworls, etc.
His quote is that hell is mentioned in the Bible more often than heaven is.
Compliments of BST....
I can swear there ain’t no heaven but I pray there ain’t no hell.
Every knee shall bend (at the name of Jesus) in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth.
I don’t believe in Hell.
Currently, when you die, there is hope of the Resurrection when Christ returns.
Those who deny Christ are “cut off” and cast “into the darkness.”
The Hell of popular literature still offers eternal life, tormented though the inhabitants may be. To go with that eternal torment, there would be those who inflict the eternal punishment. They would rule in Hell.
Why would God allow such beings to continue to exist as rulers?
This other post, “Hell and The Glory Of God...pt 2” by Bill Randalls explains things better than I could:
Catholic Caucus: HELL EXISTS AND WE MIGHT GO THERE!
John Calvins Worst Heresy: That Christ Suffered in Hell
Natural Calamities Divine Threats & Four Gates of Hell The four Principal Gates of Hell : I Hatred
Pope speaks with priests from his diocese about Heaven and Hell
Whatever Became of Hell? (HAS THE UNQUENCHABLE FIRE BEEN QUENCHED )
One Man's Visit to Hell
A Brief Catechism for Adults - Lesson 11: Hell
A Question Of Hell (One Minister Questions Its Existence)
Pope says hell and damnation are real and eternal
The fires of Hell are real and eternal, Pope warns
The Early Church Fathers on Hell - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
IS THE NEW MASS SOFT ON HELL?
Heaven and hell seem to be forgotten
Which circle of Hell do You belong in?
"To Hell with Hell!": The Spiritual Dumbing Down of the Generations
Reflecting on Hell: Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent
The Reality of Satan and the Victory of Jesus and Mary (an Exorcist speaks out)
Beware the Serpents Promises
Americans Describe Their Views About Life After Death(Only One 1/2 of 1% Think They Are Hell-Bound)
Sister Faustina's Vision of Hell
A rational man would do well to consider Pascal’s wager.
The more important question is “What if there really is a hell?”
And it’s not about “buy what we’re peddling or go to hell”, it’s more like a warning to make an informed choice. And that we encourage you to choose to be with God and other people that love Him, rather than reject Him and be forced to be separated from Him.
People like hell when they think of Jeffrey Dahmer, but scoff when men like Gandhi are said to go to hell. If Dahmer really did repented and Gandhi never was a Christian then Gandhi is in hell and Dahmer isn’t.
Okay, thanks for the links.
However, what are your thoughts on the subject?
Can you see where eternal death would be worse than an eternal life of torment?
That may have been how it was sold in the past, but I think nowadays at least what I hear is how a belief in God makes the here and now so blessed. With the knowledge of an eternity that is completely blessed.
One obvious point I would think for the “proof” of Hell (in my book a separation from God), is why the heck would Jesus (God himself!) go through the pain and suffering to save us, if there was nothing to save us from?
Hell is a place where God is not. God is Holy and those in His presence must also be Holy. Those who have chosen to repent have Christ’s holiness. Those who don’t cannot stand in His presence.
Well, eternal death will certainly accomplish that.
Hell is mentioned several times in the Bible. Here are a few of those instances:
2 Peter 2:4-5 says, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment.”
Mark 9:46 describes hell as: “Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”
Matthew 8:12 says, “But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Isaiah 66:24 reads: “And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
Daniel 12:2 describes the duration of hell: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Luke 16:22-24 uses a parable to describe hell: “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’”
Luke 12:5 says, “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
Mark 9:47 says, “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.”
Matthew 23:33 reads: “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”
Revelation 19:20 talks about the fiery lake: “But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”
If Hell is not real like Humanist want us to believe then the Bible is just a best selling book, because the rest of it would be bogus also.
If heaven is being in the presence of God then then a hell is not necessary.
Jesus spoke more of Hell then everyone else in the Bible combined. He described it as a place where the fire is never quenched and the worm never dies. To reject hell is to reject Christ.