H E double hockey sticks

I was recently asked to contribute to a podcast for Love for All Ministries, a group of young Christians dedicated to honest, intellectual dialogue with non-believers of all walks and creeds. The topic for the discussion when I was on was “Hell”. I haven’t talked much about hell on this blog so far, so I thought I’d point to this podcast.*  I didn’t want to bring in too many of my own unique and esoteric beliefs on the topic – although I would have brought in more if I had had time – but I was primarily interested in problematizing the typical fundamentalist/evangelical view of hell.

My primary goal in discussing this topic was to emphasize something that Travis, the show’s main host, brought up on his own: the majority understanding of hell is not easily demonstrated in Scripture. The main biblical sources that fanned the flame (so to speak) of the medieval imagination on the topic of hell are all highly figurative (more on this in another post, perhaps). But even the word “hell” is nowhere near as clear-cut as modern Christians think it is: for one thing, there is no single word for “hell” in the Bible. We have the obscure and poorly understood sheol in the Old Testament, translated as Hades in the New Testament, which in the OT was the place both the righteous and unrighteous slept after death; we have Peter using (of angels) a verb that means “imprison in Tartarus”, another word originally tied to Greek mythology; one more word that has played into the current understanding of hell is the NT word Gehenna.

Translated in English usually as “hell” in the NT is the word γέεννα ‘Gehenna’, the Greek name for the Valley of Hinnom (originally Valley of Ben Hinnom) outside the city of Jerusalem described in 2 Kings 23.10, 2 Chron 28.3, and 33.6 as a place wherein human sacrifices were offered to Molech. This ignominious purpose and the valley’s eventual usage as a constantly-burning trash and refuse heap for the city of Jerusalem naturally came to be associated not just with wickedness but with judgment on the wicked. Jeremiah in chapter 19 predicts this as the site of judgment on Jerusalem:

In this place I will ruin the plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, at the hands of those who seek their lives, and I will give their carcasses as food to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. I will devastate this city and make it an object of scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh during the stress of the siege imposed on them by the enemies who seek their lives. [Jer 19.7-9]

Jesus’ reminder that what he’s referring to is that place “where the fire does not go out” in Mark 9.43 may be taken as an indicator that he was not just using a popular metaphor for the fate of the wicked when he talked about Gehenna, the ever-burning trash and refuse heap outside Jerusalem. Rather, it was a specific reference to the judgment mentioned in Jeremiah: Jesus was predicting another identical judgment – the same judgment described in Matthew 24 concerning the destruction of the temple. The Jewish nation was going to be judged — and it was, in the events leading up to and culminating in the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70. What’s absolutely fascinating is that the Jewish historian Josephus who witnessed this Jewish-Roman war described exactly these events happening during the siege, right down to a mother boiling her child for food during the siege and corpses of those who died in the siege being stacked high in the Valley of Hinnom.

In all the places Gehenna is mentioned (Mat 5.22, 29, 30; 10.28; 18.9; 23.15, 33; Mark 9.43, 45, 47; Lk 12.5; Ja 3.6), none of them even imply that those who go there are conscious of eternal flames. It’s the fires that don’t burn out, a common expression describing the perpetual trash and refuse incinerator that was the Valley of Hinnom. In fact, Mat 10.28 even implies the annihilation of those who enter there: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy [Gk. ἀπόλλυμι] both soul and body in hell.” The Greek word apollumi refers to destruction, not torture. This passage, I think, gives insight as to the origin of Gehenna as metaphor for eternal destruction: the Hebrew concept of the afterlife assumed the physical body as necessary for any afterlife, so burning the body was (inaccurately) thought of as destroying one’s chance for the afterlife. Jesus told his disciples that, although their body may be killed by those who persecute them, they would still have hope for an afterlife (the Resurrection), but that the same could not be said of those whose entire existence God would extinguish as judgment; the very clear implication is that the ones who would suffer that fate would be the persecutors he is warning the disciples not to fear.

If there’s enough interest, maybe I’ll work through the other NT references to hell and parse them out. At very least I should tell my understanding of the fate of the unregenerate. In the meantime, Google “conditional immortality“.

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*  I didn’t realize how nervous I was on the podcast.  In the flurry of the moment, I made a couple goofy errors I wanted to correct here for the record.

1) I said that the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus was of the same theme as the parable earlier in Luke chapter 16.  The parable that opens chapter 16 is not directly related.  What I was actually referring to was the Prodigal Son that closes out chapter 15, which shares some important thematic material.

2) As an example of the bizarre images in Revelation, I mentioned a harlot riding a dragon.  As soon I listened to the podcast I realized that was wrong: a woman flees from a dragon (Rev 12) and the harlot rides a beast (Rev 17).

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  • I’m certainly no in-depth Bible scholar…

    But I always assumed the “fire” was metaphorical. Rather, the way I view Hell is more the complete and utter absence of God and holiness.

    The thought of no God and eternal despair, to me, is more fearful than a physical fire. (Not that I’M actually afraid of going there, but the thought of unsaved people going there…well, it’s a motivator, that’s for sure!)

    Angi´s last blog post..Please Don’t Pimp My Ride

  • I’m certainly no in-depth Bible scholar…

    But I always assumed the “fire” was metaphorical. Rather, the way I view Hell is more the complete and utter absence of God and holiness.

    The thought of no God and eternal despair, to me, is more fearful than a physical fire. (Not that I’M actually afraid of going there, but the thought of unsaved people going there…well, it’s a motivator, that’s for sure!)

    Angi´s last blog post..Please Don’t Pimp My Ride

  • That’s a great summary of the topic, Stephen, but I’d love to hear more of your unique take :). You surprised me with the Jeremiah reference – good stuff.

    Damian´s last blog post..The world is a place where they make you do stupid things

  • That’s a great summary of the topic, Stephen, but I’d love to hear more of your unique take :). You surprised me with the Jeremiah reference – good stuff.

    Damian´s last blog post..The world is a place where they make you do stupid things

  • Very interesting Stephen. Have you ever read “4 views on Hell”? Clark Pinnock defends the conditional immortality against several other views.

    steve martin´s last blog post..Evolution and Original Sin: Series Introduction

  • Very interesting Stephen. Have you ever read “4 views on Hell”? Clark Pinnock defends the conditional immortality against several other views.

    steve martin´s last blog post..Evolution and Original Sin: Series Introduction

  • Very interesting post. I have wondered before if it really was a never-ending fire with worms and gnashing of teeth. To imagine hell as less than utter and complete torture for eternity seems to go against my upbringing. I did find the way Lewis depicted separation from God in The Great Divorce more logical, yet a part of me is leery of making hell not seem so awful. Not that separation from God isn’t awful, but it doesn’t quite strike terror in the soul the way burning without being consumed does. An evangelical throw-back, no doubt.

    Heather´s last blog post..S’FMtY: Dress Up

  • Very interesting post. I have wondered before if it really was a never-ending fire with worms and gnashing of teeth. To imagine hell as less than utter and complete torture for eternity seems to go against my upbringing. I did find the way Lewis depicted separation from God in The Great Divorce more logical, yet a part of me is leery of making hell not seem so awful. Not that separation from God isn’t awful, but it doesn’t quite strike terror in the soul the way burning without being consumed does. An evangelical throw-back, no doubt.

    Heather´s last blog post..S’FMtY: Dress Up

  • Angi,

    The thought of no God and eternal despair, to me, is more fearful than a physical fire.

    This would, no doubt, be “hellish”. However, this issue of eternal suffering, flames or no, is one I want to take up in a different post. Suffice it to say that eternal suffering, or Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT), is not biblical, but a concoction of bad exegesis and medieval scare tactics.

    Damian,

    Thanks for the thumbs up. How can people be unaware of such a direct biblical allusion? I certainly was, until the last few months. I could blame our Bibles for not giving us the cross-reference to Jeremiah in a standout font, but probably more of the blame goes to our teachers and expositors, and to us for not knowing our Old Testament better.

    Steve,

    I have not read this book, although I’ve been aware of it for some time. I’d like to take a look at his arguments, as well as any cogent argument in favor of ECT; I have not seen one to date.

    Heather,

    This gets at something important. I think we, just as the Church in the Middle Ages, seize on the idea of eternal unfathomable agony as leverage for our view, sort of like Pascal’s Wager on LSD. But missing out on hell has never been a good reason to convert to Christianity. God wants us to serve Him because He is God, not because we’re afraid of roaches ripping our flesh off for eternity (or whatever). I think we have to be cautious in assuming that just because fiery hell would make heaven seem like a better option, that a fiery hell must be real. Some Christians demand the worst possible alternative to rejecting their faith out of disdain for those awful sinners. I’d say those Christians need to examine their hearts.

  • Angi,

    The thought of no God and eternal despair, to me, is more fearful than a physical fire.

    This would, no doubt, be “hellish”. However, this issue of eternal suffering, flames or no, is one I want to take up in a different post. Suffice it to say that eternal suffering, or Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT), is not biblical, but a concoction of bad exegesis and medieval scare tactics.

    Damian,

    Thanks for the thumbs up. How can people be unaware of such a direct biblical allusion? I certainly was, until the last few months. I could blame our Bibles for not giving us the cross-reference to Jeremiah in a standout font, but probably more of the blame goes to our teachers and expositors, and to us for not knowing our Old Testament better.

    Steve,

    I have not read this book, although I’ve been aware of it for some time. I’d like to take a look at his arguments, as well as any cogent argument in favor of ECT; I have not seen one to date.

    Heather,

    This gets at something important. I think we, just as the Church in the Middle Ages, seize on the idea of eternal unfathomable agony as leverage for our view, sort of like Pascal’s Wager on LSD. But missing out on hell has never been a good reason to convert to Christianity. God wants us to serve Him because He is God, not because we’re afraid of roaches ripping our flesh off for eternity (or whatever). I think we have to be cautious in assuming that just because fiery hell would make heaven seem like a better option, that a fiery hell must be real. Some Christians demand the worst possible alternative to rejecting their faith out of disdain for those awful sinners. I’d say those Christians need to examine their hearts.

  • Doug Moody

    I wo uld like to add my two cents. I have never believed in an ever-burning hell. I guess my parents brought me up correctly on that point.

    But for me, the main defining argument against “burning but not being consumed” is this:

    “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Ro. 6:23

    Would God give the “gift” of eternal life to sinners too? That is, would He make them immortal so that He could then turn around and keep on torturing them? If He did, then in essence sinners receive the same reward as the righteous. The only difference would be the nature of the reward!

    Yet, that is not what scripture says. Romans makes it clear that there is a clear CONTRAST between sinners and the righteous. They don’t both get the same thing. The connecting “[but] the gift of God…” clarifies that one thing happens to the righteous (eternal life) but another different thing happens to sinners.

    I have indeed read “4 views of hell” It brings up interesting ideas, but the weakest ideas are the ones that argue for immortal torture.

    Hell is not really a place, but it is the ABSENCE of place. There is no inheritance in hell, only a vast, lonely absence of God. The righteous are INHERITORS. We are those who are sons of God, inheritors of the promise. The promise, of course, is eternal life in the presence of God, receiving freely grace from His hands for all eternity. What could be better than that? Conversely, what could be worse than NOT having such an inheritance?

    Finally, consider that the concept of hell as being “payback” from God is antithetical to what God is all about. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” By nature we are ALL deserving of being cut off from God. In fact, we WERE cut off from God for all eternity prior to our inheritance of eternal life when we accepted Christ. That is, had God not stepped in and granted us eternal life at conversion, the natural course of our sin-filled lives would have been death for eternity. We only exist in eternal life because God stepped in and did what we could not. Sinners are no different than us, except that they have not been given eternal life, and so, will die for eternity unless it is given to them.

    So it is not about “payback”, because we all deserve to die. The “torture” will be self-inflicted, not God-inflicted. It will last for eternity simply because immortality will NOT be given, which is the natural end of sin.

    James says “Sin, when it is finished, brings forth death” James 1:15

  • Doug Moody

    I wo uld like to add my two cents. I have never believed in an ever-burning hell. I guess my parents brought me up correctly on that point.

    But for me, the main defining argument against “burning but not being consumed” is this:

    “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Ro. 6:23

    Would God give the “gift” of eternal life to sinners too? That is, would He make them immortal so that He could then turn around and keep on torturing them? If He did, then in essence sinners receive the same reward as the righteous. The only difference would be the nature of the reward!

    Yet, that is not what scripture says. Romans makes it clear that there is a clear CONTRAST between sinners and the righteous. They don’t both get the same thing. The connecting “[but] the gift of God…” clarifies that one thing happens to the righteous (eternal life) but another different thing happens to sinners.

    I have indeed read “4 views of hell” It brings up interesting ideas, but the weakest ideas are the ones that argue for immortal torture.

    Hell is not really a place, but it is the ABSENCE of place. There is no inheritance in hell, only a vast, lonely absence of God. The righteous are INHERITORS. We are those who are sons of God, inheritors of the promise. The promise, of course, is eternal life in the presence of God, receiving freely grace from His hands for all eternity. What could be better than that? Conversely, what could be worse than NOT having such an inheritance?

    Finally, consider that the concept of hell as being “payback” from God is antithetical to what God is all about. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” By nature we are ALL deserving of being cut off from God. In fact, we WERE cut off from God for all eternity prior to our inheritance of eternal life when we accepted Christ. That is, had God not stepped in and granted us eternal life at conversion, the natural course of our sin-filled lives would have been death for eternity. We only exist in eternal life because God stepped in and did what we could not. Sinners are no different than us, except that they have not been given eternal life, and so, will die for eternity unless it is given to them.

    So it is not about “payback”, because we all deserve to die. The “torture” will be self-inflicted, not God-inflicted. It will last for eternity simply because immortality will NOT be given, which is the natural end of sin.

    James says “Sin, when it is finished, brings forth death” James 1:15

  • All,

    Doug has fairly well summed up my view on the matter. It gets at the whole “conditional immortality” thing: the soul only lives forever as a gift from God. Our existence is but a vapor without God’s provision. Without God, we’d share the same fate as apes, dogs, fish, and insects. It’s God’s extraordinary love that grants us eternal life. The concept of eternal death is not biblical.

    The best argument against this is a philosophical one: how can a just God allow the worst sinners to share the same fate as the nice guy sinners? Surely mass murderers deserve more than a simple *puff* at the end of their earthly lives. This is interesting, but in the end it’s a philosophical argument and not one supported in Scripture. In fact, God had lots of opportunities to tell us what He was going to do with the wicked, but never seemed inclined to do anything but leave it to His discretion. Jesus himself noted that God makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. In Ecclesiastes 9.2, the author despairs over the shared fate of the righteous and unrighteous (which, during the age of Sheol, was in fact the same), with the final verse giving the only solace: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecc 12.14) Paul alluded to this in 2 Cor 5.10. So even though it is implied that “the punishment will fit the crime”, we are given no indication that this punishment is an eternity with the thermostat waaaay up for some and only a bit above room temperature for others. It’s intentionally obscure: the point is, God will take care of it. Period.

    And He definitely never says that He requires an eternity to do it.

  • All,

    Doug has fairly well summed up my view on the matter. It gets at the whole “conditional immortality” thing: the soul only lives forever as a gift from God. Our existence is but a vapor without God’s provision. Without God, we’d share the same fate as apes, dogs, fish, and insects. It’s God’s extraordinary love that grants us eternal life. The concept of eternal death is not biblical.

    The best argument against this is a philosophical one: how can a just God allow the worst sinners to share the same fate as the nice guy sinners? Surely mass murderers deserve more than a simple *puff* at the end of their earthly lives. This is interesting, but in the end it’s a philosophical argument and not one supported in Scripture. In fact, God had lots of opportunities to tell us what He was going to do with the wicked, but never seemed inclined to do anything but leave it to His discretion. Jesus himself noted that God makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. In Ecclesiastes 9.2, the author despairs over the shared fate of the righteous and unrighteous (which, during the age of Sheol, was in fact the same), with the final verse giving the only solace: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecc 12.14) Paul alluded to this in 2 Cor 5.10. So even though it is implied that “the punishment will fit the crime”, we are given no indication that this punishment is an eternity with the thermostat waaaay up for some and only a bit above room temperature for others. It’s intentionally obscure: the point is, God will take care of it. Period.

    And He definitely never says that He requires an eternity to do it.

  • Doug,

    You seem to allude to hell as being ‘cut off’ from God. Surely, if through God all things are sustained (and the evidence mentioned above that the unrighteous are not given eternal life), this lends towards the unrighteous ceasing to be, rather than simply being eternally divorced from God?

    Damian´s last blog post..The world is a place where they make you do stupid things

  • Doug,

    You seem to allude to hell as being ‘cut off’ from God. Surely, if through God all things are sustained (and the evidence mentioned above that the unrighteous are not given eternal life), this lends towards the unrighteous ceasing to be, rather than simply being eternally divorced from God?

    Damian´s last blog post..The world is a place where they make you do stupid things

  • You goon! I talk to you everyday and you don’t even tell me you were on a blinkin’ podcast!? Sheesh!

    By the way, Lyndsay and I had a baby yesterday.

    Josh H.´s last blog post..christianity in action

  • You goon! I talk to you everyday and you don’t even tell me you were on a blinkin’ podcast!? Sheesh!

    By the way, Lyndsay and I had a baby yesterday.

    Josh H.´s last blog post..christianity in action

  • Damian,

    I think that was his point, actually. I know it’s my point, anyway. By definition, annihilation is being cut off from God for eternity, thus essentially being dead forever. What are your thoughts?

  • Damian,

    I think that was his point, actually. I know it’s my point, anyway. By definition, annihilation is being cut off from God for eternity, thus essentially being dead forever. What are your thoughts?

  • Steve,

    I think that by saying ‘cut off’, you’re implying a consciousness of the process that I’m not convinced is scriptural. I believed it for a while, though. It seems to me that we’re not consciously ‘cut off’, but rather cease to be.

    Damian´s last blog post..The world is a place where they make you do stupid things

  • Steve,

    I think that by saying ‘cut off’, you’re implying a consciousness of the process that I’m not convinced is scriptural. I believed it for a while, though. It seems to me that we’re not consciously ‘cut off’, but rather cease to be.

    Damian´s last blog post..The world is a place where they make you do stupid things

  • Ok. But I think that the action of being “cut off” is how the ungodly quit their existence (i.e., when they cease to be). But maybe it’s a bit too ambiguous put in those terms.

    But then again Damian (just to stir the pot a little), you can’t really have this when you’re awaiting a future Resurrection of the Dead. 😉

  • Ok. But I think that the action of being “cut off” is how the ungodly quit their existence (i.e., when they cease to be). But maybe it’s a bit too ambiguous put in those terms.

    But then again Damian (just to stir the pot a little), you can’t really have this when you’re awaiting a future Resurrection of the Dead. 😉

  • It is a little ambiguous in those terms. But I understand what you meant.

    And, just because you ask, the place of Sheol as the old testament afterlife for both righteous and unrighteous plays right into a future resurrection of the dead for both, followed by eternal death for the unrighteous and and eternal life for the righteous. Annihilation fits in with the resurrection quite fine, thank you :P.

    The real challenge to annihilation under the resurrection for me lies in revelation (which I’m still putting off an in-depth study of – I should really just do it this Christmas when I have the time), because there are a lot of things in there that suggest an extended post-resurrection status quo in which the righteous and unrighteous coexist.

    I think a lot of that is messy for me, and I think if I ever come over to your side, it’ll be on the grounds of the Revelation material. The trees and river of life flowing inside Zion and outside it, and all that.

  • It is a little ambiguous in those terms. But I understand what you meant.

    And, just because you ask, the place of Sheol as the old testament afterlife for both righteous and unrighteous plays right into a future resurrection of the dead for both, followed by eternal death for the unrighteous and and eternal life for the righteous. Annihilation fits in with the resurrection quite fine, thank you :P.

    The real challenge to annihilation under the resurrection for me lies in revelation (which I’m still putting off an in-depth study of – I should really just do it this Christmas when I have the time), because there are a lot of things in there that suggest an extended post-resurrection status quo in which the righteous and unrighteous coexist.

    I think a lot of that is messy for me, and I think if I ever come over to your side, it’ll be on the grounds of the Revelation material. The trees and river of life flowing inside Zion and outside it, and all that.

  • And, just because you ask, the place of Sheol as the old testament afterlife for both righteous and unrighteous plays right into a future resurrection of the dead for both, followed by eternal death for the unrighteous and and eternal life for the righteous. Annihilation fits in with the resurrection quite fine, thank you :P.

    Quite so, I agree. Except I think that the Resurrection was only future to the NT writers! I only made that remark because it sounded like you believed that the ungodly are annihilated today at death, which contradicts a future resurrection. Pardon my jump. 🙂

    The real challenge to annihilation under the resurrection for me lies in revelation[…]

    Revelation does have some interesting things to say. But what we have, so typically in Revelation, is somewhat unclear. I’m going to go ahead and prepare a short post to give my thinking on the Lake of Fire in Revelation. This will not answer all your questions, but it’s a logical sequel to this post.

  • And, just because you ask, the place of Sheol as the old testament afterlife for both righteous and unrighteous plays right into a future resurrection of the dead for both, followed by eternal death for the unrighteous and and eternal life for the righteous. Annihilation fits in with the resurrection quite fine, thank you :P.

    Quite so, I agree. Except I think that the Resurrection was only future to the NT writers! I only made that remark because it sounded like you believed that the ungodly are annihilated today at death, which contradicts a future resurrection. Pardon my jump. 🙂

    The real challenge to annihilation under the resurrection for me lies in revelation[…]

    Revelation does have some interesting things to say. But what we have, so typically in Revelation, is somewhat unclear. I’m going to go ahead and prepare a short post to give my thinking on the Lake of Fire in Revelation. This will not answer all your questions, but it’s a logical sequel to this post.

  • Ha! So even statements about Hell were fulfilled in AD 70? Man, you’re a preterist right down the line! Just kidding. I understand what you’re saying.

    I have also noticed how many of our traditional ideas of Hell seem to have been greatly influenced by the imagery from Dante’s Inferno and simply are not spelled out the same in scripture.

    I have wondered before about the possibility of annihilation of the damned. That is very, very scary. To not have consciousness, to suddenly be no more is frightful.

    You may not want to address it here, but I have a question concerning the emptying of Sheol: With this Hell discussion in mind, from the preterist stance would you say that at the time that Sheol was emptied and those who had died were judged that the righteous (e.g. Daniel, David, Jeremiah) went to Heaven and the wicked were erased from existence?

    Josh H.´s last blog post..christianity in action

  • Ha! So even statements about Hell were fulfilled in AD 70? Man, you’re a preterist right down the line! Just kidding. I understand what you’re saying.

    I have also noticed how many of our traditional ideas of Hell seem to have been greatly influenced by the imagery from Dante’s Inferno and simply are not spelled out the same in scripture.

    I have wondered before about the possibility of annihilation of the damned. That is very, very scary. To not have consciousness, to suddenly be no more is frightful.

    You may not want to address it here, but I have a question concerning the emptying of Sheol: With this Hell discussion in mind, from the preterist stance would you say that at the time that Sheol was emptied and those who had died were judged that the righteous (e.g. Daniel, David, Jeremiah) went to Heaven and the wicked were erased from existence?

    Josh H.´s last blog post..christianity in action

  • Josh,

    If you think about it, it’s really only natural that completed “end times” would include this aspect of judgment. But this understanding of hell is not really bound up together with preterism, although, quite happily for me, it does jibe with it remarkably well.

    With this Hell discussion in mind, from the preterist stance would you say that at the time that Sheol was emptied and those who had died were judged that the righteous (e.g. Daniel, David, Jeremiah) went to Heaven and the wicked were erased from existence?

    Bingo.

  • Josh,

    If you think about it, it’s really only natural that completed “end times” would include this aspect of judgment. But this understanding of hell is not really bound up together with preterism, although, quite happily for me, it does jibe with it remarkably well.

    With this Hell discussion in mind, from the preterist stance would you say that at the time that Sheol was emptied and those who had died were judged that the righteous (e.g. Daniel, David, Jeremiah) went to Heaven and the wicked were erased from existence?

    Bingo.

  • @: Steve,

    It’s no coincidence that I’ve had to re-evaluate my thoughts on hell after having accepted evolutionary creationism. It seems to me that we must separate Jesus’ and Paul’s theological teachings on hell from the incidental vessels in which they’re found, i.e., the Greek-influenced ideas regarding the afterlife adapted to the then-current Hebrew culture.

    By doing this, we can see quite clearly that Jesus taught that a post-mortem life is a gift; without the gift, that “seed” which Paul speaks of does not “die” and result in a God-built, bio-spiritual body with which we can experience everlasting life with God in a manner unbefit for our limited mortal coil.

    Looking forward to more on this …

    Mike Beidler´s last blog post..The Evolution Creed

  • @: Steve,

    It’s no coincidence that I’ve had to re-evaluate my thoughts on hell after having accepted evolutionary creationism. It seems to me that we must separate Jesus’ and Paul’s theological teachings on hell from the incidental vessels in which they’re found, i.e., the Greek-influenced ideas regarding the afterlife adapted to the then-current Hebrew culture.

    By doing this, we can see quite clearly that Jesus taught that a post-mortem life is a gift; without the gift, that “seed” which Paul speaks of does not “die” and result in a God-built, bio-spiritual body with which we can experience everlasting life with God in a manner unbefit for our limited mortal coil.

    Looking forward to more on this …

    Mike Beidler´s last blog post..The Evolution Creed

  • Thanks, Mike. Here again, preterism and evolution complement one another remarkably well. And once again, the majority evangelical party line accepts and propagates a highly questionable teaching as a central doctrine.

  • Thanks, Mike. Here again, preterism and evolution complement one another remarkably well. And once again, the majority evangelical party line accepts and propagates a highly questionable teaching as a central doctrine.

  • Victor Reppert (Christian Philosopher): According to Christianity, this earth and everything in it, including all the human suffering we find there, lasts only a finite length of time, while human character lasts forever. Something that alleviates our suffering at the cost of harming our character is not a bargain if Christians are right.

    Ed Babinski: “Forever” is a long time during which free-willed beings might experience a change in character, if that is what you propose God’s main concern is. But based on various Bible passages it seems to me like God’s main concern is not “character development” so much as retribution, wrath, holy jealousy, casting people into lakes of fire, locking people out of wedding parties who arrive late, warning people about the God who can cast both body and soul into hell.

    Some Christians, C. S. Lewis included, argue that hell is a “loving provision,” a place where non-Christian souls are safe from the pain they would feel if they were exposed to God’s presence. Such an argument fails to convince because Christianity teaches Jesus was God, yet Jesus mingled with “sinners and wine-bibbers” without any mention of his presence causing them pain. Jesus also allegedly preached to “souls in hell,” so I guess God can tone down his “presence” enough to avoid causing sinners pain. God can even put His “presence” in communion wafers (if Catholics and Lutherans are right) without it burning the tongues of sinners (unless the person happens to have a strong allergic reaction to wheat).

    Those Christians willing to question the notion of a firey retributive hell lit by God’s jealousy and anger, and who favor instead a “lighter” less “tortuous” version of “eternal punishment” (perhaps being cast into a lake of sour jello instead of a lake of fire), should take their questioning to the NEXT level and ask why “hell” needs to be any worse than this world? We have pain and sickness here, we suffer here, but there is also room for healing, growth and education. (Indeed, what better teachers could there be than God and time, especially if God is most concerned about the development of one’s character thoughout eternity rather than being concerned about vengeance, wrath and retribution?)

    As for those who argue that eternal hell should be viewed as “God’s great compliment,” I say, if hell is such a great “compliment,” what does God do when he wants to “insult” someone? (Maybe I should simply respond, “Then please take your gleefully and playfully worded defense of hell with you to hell? There, have I complimented you enough?”)

    Lastly, why do you assume that this world is the best place in which to develop character? We start out ignorant babes, picking up the ignorance and prejudices of those who raise us. Then once our hormones kick in during adolescence we’re tossed on a sea of emotions. And “communication” itself is a difficult art that can cause confusion, pain and suffering, or lead to it. While simple stupidity cripples some people, cities, nations, etc. Throughout life we also have to concentrate on basic needs first and foremost, from food and clothing and shelter to basic education to hopefully advanced education (which much of the world lacks), and even then there’s little time left for most people on earth to compare and contrast religions, philosophies, wise teachers and sayings, or even to self-examine themselves and what they truly do believe, or to retrace and study the courses of their own inner journeys–that often leads to new insights and beliefs. Some people also suffer so much in life either psychologically or physically that it doesn’t build character but dismantles it, and/or scrambles a person’s brain/mind. Even a mere deficiency in a vitamin or mineral can scramble a person’s brain/mind, and/or hinder their ability to think clearly. A tiny microscopic tear in brain tissue or pressure from a benign tumor can also change a person’s behavior. It turned one happily married man into a porn addict and molester of his own daughter, and then once the tumor was removed, he was fine.

    All I have to say is this…

    Given headaches, backaches, toothaches, strains, scrapes, breaks, cuts, rashes, burns, bruises, PMS, fatigue, hunger, odors, molds, colds, yeast, parasites, viruses, cancers, genetic defects, blindness, deafness, paralysis, mental illness, ugliness, ignorance, miscommunications, embarrassments, unrequited love, dashed hopes, boredom, hard labor, repetitious labor, accidents, old age, senility, fires, floods, earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanoes, I can not see how anyone, after they are dead, deserves “eternal punishment” as well.