Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Needing Hell

Some discussions around Rob Bell's new book Love Wins has got me thinking today.

Is your belief in Hell a cornerstone to your faith?

If you discovered somehow that the wicked were not destined to a conscious eternal torment in Hell... how badly would that rock your boat?

I find it interesting what is considered and essential to the Christian faith.

I haven't read this latest book of Rob Bell, nor any other book of his for that matter. I don't know if I agree with all of his conclusions. But I respect his ability to ask some great questions.

A year and a half ago I took a look at Scripture to determine if my traditional views on hell were well supported. It wasn't as clear as I once thought. I understand it is a hot topic. I concluded:

If scripture was clear, I don't think I'd be asking the above questions. But there are enough verses to give me some doubt. I'd rather admit I don't know for sure one way or the other, than give someone a potentially false image of God.

Either way eternal life with Jesus is still the obvious choice. I'm just questioning if the doctrine of Hell, that most denominations support, is clearly true to scripture. To be destroyed or perish may simply mean that those who do not choose life with Christ do not get to live eternally.

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4 comments:

Like a Mustard Seed said...

"To be destroyed or perish may simply mean that those who do not choose life with Christ do not get to live eternally."

Ok, so what is the opposite of "live eternally"...?

Whatever answer or description you come up with, I would argue that it is not a "positive" thing...

So in the end, are you really making things appear any less scary to people who would balk at the "traditional" depiction of hell? It seems to me that to get caught in the weeds of worrying about how the doctrine of hell makes God seem to people, is to put oneself on the path of eventually having to disregard it altogether, at least eventually...

Jonathan said...

Thanks for the comment.

One possibility that seems to make sense to me is that those who don't get to live for eternity die a second death. They perish and are destroyed.

I agree this isn't a positive thing. I'm just not sure where our tradition came up with this eternal torment belief. I'd imagine those enormous paintings in those old churches scared a lot of people into believing. But if Scripture isn't clear on what the end will be, then this maybe isn't the best approach to take.

I appreciate your concern, but I don't think I'm on a slippery slope. Scripture seems clear there will be a judgment where some get eternal life with God, and some don't. I know where I want to be... and it has nothing to do with being scared that God would torturing me for eternity if I didn't.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Why is it always assumed that an eternal, conscious hell would necessitate the active, continual act of "torturing" on God's part?

And why do you say that scripture is not clear about this? What about when Jesus told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus?

And before you say, "no, that's a parable", let me add that this doesn't real change the fact that Jesus is presenting hell as a real place, where real suffering happens. The situation is a hypothetical one, but the whole point of the parable is lost if we try and say that Jesus wasn't actually meaning that there is a literal, painful hell...

Jesus also refers to Isaiah 66 concerning hell, describing it as "where worm that eats you does not die, and the fire that burns you is not quenched..." (plus, since Jesus refers to this O.T. verse as a description of hell, we are hard pressed to say that the O.T. doesn't teach the same perspective on hell...)

Jonathan said...

Thanks for the comment. And I don't want to get too dogmatic about this. I'm at a place where I'm not certain what the afterlife will look like.

The two passages you mentioned were addressed in my larger study on the topic here:
http://jonjourney.blogspot.com/2009/10/does-scripture-say-hell-is-eternal.html

Luke 16:22-24 - Not sure if this fits the doctrine of Hell - where the wicked go after the final judgment. This story continues describing how the rich man wanted to send someone back to warn his family members who were still alive on earth. If anything this is a description of some abode of the dead before the final judgment - or some purgatory like place..

And yes Jesus quotes Isaiah 66:24
"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." (NIV)

Note the reference to dead bodies, not living bodies. Also Gehenna (translated hell in our Bibles) was a burning garbage dump near Jerusalem. Things thrown into the burning garbage dump would be destroyed. The fire burned forever, but the things thrown into it perished.

Can I ask if you've ever considered a literal reading of John 3:16, Rom 6:23, or the many other verses I've listed in the above link? If we read "eternal life" literally, why don't we read death/destroy/perish at face value?
Have we considered what the Jewish concept of Hell was? Did Jesus clarify it, or go along with their understanding?