Posted by: minnow | March 20, 2010

A Character Issue #2

Once again I find the need to venture into some old territory on this blog.  Over on Parchment and Pen CMP has written a post entitled “Eight Things I Hate about Christianity“.  In it he lists the number 1 thing he hates as the doctrine of Hell.  I too HATE this doctrine but unlike CMP find it impossible to reconcile the doctrine with who my God is.  Unlike CMP I can not attribute to God the creation of a place of everlasting torture for those who do not believe rightly about His son, and still call Him good or think Him worthy to worship.  But, even more importantly, unlike CMP I do NOT find this place supported unequivocally in the Bible or necessary to my Christian faith.

I believe the doctrine of hell as an everlasting place of torment evolves more from  Man’s fleshly need for revenge than through a Biblical mandate.  One need only look at the prison systems around the world to understand that Man is hardly motivated by rehabilitation, reconciliation, and redemption but much more focused on reprisal and retribution. Yes, one can find verses that are translated eternal punishment  and even some that use the word hell.  However, the Greek word in the passages for eternal  can just as easily be translated “for an age” and the Greek word for punishment  can just as easily be translated “pruning”.  Meanwhile, 12 of the 14 words translated hell  in the NIV New Testament refer to an actual place–Gehenna or the Valley of Hinnom where King Ahaz and King Manasseh sacrificed babies to pagan gods.  During Jesus’ day this same place was the garbage dump outside Jerusalem where the outcasts of society tried to subsist on any edible garbage they could find among the burning, worm infested trash.  No wonder there is the gnashing of teeth.  The only other references should actually be translated Hades  or “the place of the dead” and Tartarus  which in Greek mythology was “a place lower than Hades where angels await judgement”.*

I do not know how many times I have heard the statement, “Well if you do not believe in hell you can not believe in what Jesus accomplished on the cross.”  Such a statement should be among CMP’s “And Other Stupid Sayings”.  Truthfully just the opposite is closer to being true.  You see I believe Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection what He set out to accomplish–the defeat of death, the forgiveness of sin, and the reconciliation of all creation to His Father. 

I find rejecting the hell doctrine, rather than embracing it, as more consistent with the revealed character of God.  Scripture tells us that His love endures forever (I Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 100:5, Jeremiah 33:10-12).  It explains that God wants all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-7, 4: 9-10) and while we were dead in sin His grace was given (Ephesians 2:4-5) showing us that His forgiveness is not dependent on our behavior.  I can not believe in an hypocritical God that would ask us to do something He has not already done or is unwilling to do.  Such a God is inconsistent with the Bible.  Instead, when Jesus tells Peter to forgive without ceasing (Matthew 18:21-22) He divulges something of His own grace-filled character.   James 2:13 tells us that mercy triumphs over judgement and Zechariah 7:9 tells us that true justice is to “show mercy and compassion to one another.”  This is the God of scripture.  This is the gospel of Jesus.

Rejecting a traditional view of hell is not synonymous with rejecting Christ.  It does however pretty thoroughly do away with Calvinism, and Arminianism for that matter.  I am saddened by the harsh image of God painted by the Calvinist and Arminian traditions and confused by their willingness to suspend their understanding of how a loving Father could not only create such a place as hell but predestine that part of His creation would spend the rest of eternity in torment there.  Such an attribute in any other being would not cause it to be worthy of worship but instead would find it utterly rejected and condemned.  I chose instead to suspend my understanding of how justice can be served so completely through mercy and trust that the gift of forgiveness I have been given is enough.  May I be thankful enough to pass on the good news.

*If you want a more thorough discussion on how we derive the doctrine of hell check out my earlier posts here, here, and here or follow the Adventures of Clothman  link on my blog roll.  Once there, click other writings from the column on the left and scroll down to the bottom.  You could also try this link.  It should take you directly to his hell posts.

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Responses

  1. Rejecting a traditional view of hell is not synonymous with rejecting Christ – wise words, very wise words.

  2. Well said Minnow!!!

    I do not think I could of put it into words better then you just did. All I am confused with is the Title, but I guess if it works for you it works for me.

    I think that you need to deny a lot of scripture and a lot of who God is, to justify Everlasting Hell. It is sad that so many have gone so long doing so. One of the greatest barriers to reaching out to others, I think is the (false) Doctrine of Hell, and all the thought process that needs to come with it.


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