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Why Christians Don’t Really Believe in Hell February 12, 2009

Posted by Matt in Christian Beliefs.
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In an earlier blog entry the comments have recently turned to the idea of hell’s existence, so I thought I would push things a bit farther in another avenue for discussion.

In essence, the Christian teaching that I have always heard says that everyone will stand before the judgment throne of God and He/She will separate out those who accepted Jesus to go to the eternal party in heaven and those who didn’t to the dark, fiery, tortuous bowels of hell forevermore. Granted, that description is simplistic, but it is basically correct.

If one truly believes that the majority of humankind is doomed to burn in agony for all of infinity and they do not spend every single waking moment of their life doing every thing they possibly can to save people from the sinking ship of life, what does that make them? How can you possibly have a job or do anything recreational or spend time reading blogs if everyone around you is destined to be trapped in a land of torment and you have the one way to save them?

Does one who believes in an eternal hell have such utter disregard and perhaps even hatred for all of his fellow man that they do not regard the lost as worthy of their time? Would that then make a Christian who does not spend every single moment of every day proclaiming the Gospel the most evil of all persons on the earth?

Also, in regards to the issue, I was especially impressed by comedian Penn’s take on this…and not just because he echoes what I’ve been saying for a long time.

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1. Jonathan - February 12, 2009

The same logic can be applied to many other good endeavors. Am I evil if I believe people suffer terribly from malnutrition yet don’t spend every moment and dollar I have feeding the poor? Am I evil if I believe that every child deserves parents yet don’t grow my family to the absolute practical limit via adoption? There are certainly people who devote themselves entirely to serving the poor and the fatherless, and that is wonderful…but I think we’re missing something somehow if we conclude that either we have to admit that we don’t really believe in hell or we spend every waking moment preaching the gospel in order to avoid showing ourselves to be entirely evil. I guess I’m not able to put my finger on exactly what we’re missing at this moment but intuitively feel like something is.

Christopher Yoder - August 15, 2011

What’s missing is that people can’t save people. Only God can save people. True believers can, however, be obedient to the God who has called them to be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within them, and to speak the truth in love with gentleness and respect. I believe that Hell is real, and that the only way to escape it is by asking Jesus to be your king and to cleanse you of your sins. I say that with the upmost respect to those who do not believe the same thing I do.

2. Matt - February 12, 2009

I agree with you, Jonathan, that we shouldn’t make it an either/or proposition. Things are certainly more complex than that.

Starving people and orphaned children are a tragedy that should never be disregarded, but that kind of temporal suffering seems to pale in comparison to eternal torture.

3. pdx - February 12, 2009

i appreciate the spirit of matt’s question.

for many christians, the idea of afterlife is the main driving force behind their hope. i have heard countless times, “if there isn’t an afterlife, what is the point of christianity?”

that response crushes me everytime i hear it. but i understand it because it’s how we have been conditioned to believe.

jesus is about transformation. about dying to ourself. about living the spirit of the law. about being in communion with community and communion with god. about being god to the least of these. about living in love.

isn’t that enough reason to find meaning and purpose in the way of christ?

if most christians really did think there was a hell and billions and billions of people were going to be tormented forever…they would probably do more than work 60 hour work weeks, play guitar hero and watch american idol.

but i’m not so sure they really make sense of it either.

and saying that god doesn’t condemn people…that they choose hell for themselves makes me sad inside. tell that to my friend who was abused by an elder and killed himself but never “believed and was baptized”, tell that to my neighbor who has nothing to do with christianity but works tirelessly for the poor in my community. tell that to the starving indian who has only known his tiny community and their stories of reincarnation. tell that to the person who weighted what everyone was saying and just didn’t think it added up.

the early jews didn’t believe in an afterlife. jesus spoke of a garbage dump outside the city and a mansion.

we bare on our backs hundreds and hundreds of years of christian theology interpreted and re-interpreted through the ages. none of it is clear. the bible isn’t even clear.

why do we think we have it figured out. i don’t.

peace be with you.

Kim - December 6, 2010

I’ve been struggling with the idea of hell for 6 years. God has consistently been telling me “seek”. First GRACE began illuminating the Bible, and it is AMAZING! As far as hell, THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE! Look at jsut some of the amazing truths. 1 Timothy 2:4 God wills for ALL TO BE SAVED.- can God’s will be thwarted? John 12:47 Jesus came to save ALL- will He suceed? John 4:42 Jesus is the savior of the WORLD- can he be SAVIOR without SAVING all? Romans 5:15-21 In Adam ALL condemned, in Christ ALL live- the same ALL? Philippians 2:9-11 EVERY tongue shall confess Jesus is Lord-will the Holy Spirit be given to everyone?
1 Corinthians 12:3 Cannot confess EXCEPT by the Holy Spirit-see? Luke 2:10 Jesus will be joy to ALL people- is there joy in hell? 1 Corinthians 4:5 ALL will have praise of God- for what? Revelation 5:13 ALL creation seen praising God- why? Revelation 21:4,5 No more tears ALL things made new-ALL again! Hebrews 1:2 Jesus is heir of ALL things- pretty sure that includes people John 17:2 Jesus gives eternal life to ALL that His Father gave him- how many did the Father give Him?, pretty sure he gave Him ALL. John 3:35 The Father gave Him ALL things 1 Timothy 4:9-11 Jesus is the Savior of ALL! Can’t seem to get away from that word ALL. You know how some people say they think there might be a cure for cancer but they won’t tell us because we’d lose billions of dollars in what we’re making off of the cancer. Just think how many people would be out of a job, how much does fear and guilt cost us? The early Christians did not believe in hell and yes there is a heaven and yes there is evil but Jesus destroyed it, how can we even say that and still believe THAT ONLY THE CHOSEN FEW WILL MAKE IT.I can only imagine how many would truly turn to Jesus if they knew the truth. God is awesome, we ALL have to start doing our OWN homework and stop listening to the lies.

james - June 1, 2011

Hi Kim. http://www.tentmaker.org is a “non eternal torment” Christian site.

Kim - June 6, 2011

Thanks James, I’ve since found tentmakers, and have been blessed by it. Amazing the work Gary has put into it. God Bless

4. brian pannell - February 13, 2009

Why is striving for an afterlife necessarily a bad thing? What is wrong with working for some level of reward (whatever that may be)? I do agree that the reason we do things in this life should not solely be as a cause for a wonderful eternal effect. We need to start embracing the concept of “thy kingdom come on earth”…..it begins here! But I see nothing wrong with striving for “something” that “comes next.”
Jesus IS about transformation and everything about Him is about love! So yes PDX…that alone should offer GREAT meaning and purpose for those of faith.
I do believe some folks though….as harsh as it sounds……do choose condemnation. I believe salvation is there for everyone. And I am ready to admit it most likely comes in ways much less rigid than we in the religious establishment have labeled it. But, sometimes we have to make choices.
Of course like you said…we don’t have it figured out at all…I sure do not! But, I am not willing to throw out everything either.

5. Stephanie E. - February 13, 2009

One reason why we might just keep on working, playing, and blogging could be the simple vastness of it all. If we can’t teach everyone (or feed everyone or adopt everyone) it’s easier to just tune it out and keep on keeping on. It doesn’t make it right, but it is a possible answer. And maybe that’s why we can keep on doing what we’re doing without feeling “evil.” Maybe it’s not a lack of belief; it’s self protection. Maybe?

6. Matt - February 13, 2009

That makes sense to me, Stephanie. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism against the crushing personal guilt that must come with the idea that most of the people around will suffer eternal torment. I can’t imagine any other way that one could deal with that kind of belief.

7. Brandon P - May 11, 2009

The answer is very simple. Human beings are evolutionary animals like every other beast on this planet. Nothing special about us other than the fact we are aware of our own mortality and that we can imagine and propagate the notion of an almighty creator. Good man or not, he’s a dumb man who believes firmly with every fiber of his being there is a god without having been provided a single piece of empirical evidence. The human race is a sad one.


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