Do Christians Have To Believe In Hell?



Anonymous asked:

Are there CHRISTIAN denominations that don’t believe in a literal Hell judgement?


So you get the prize for the most loaded question I’ve ever received.

I’m assuming you mean any of the following: Can a Christian still be a Christian if he doesn’t believe in Hell?  Are Universalists still Christians?  If not, are they a cult? Does that mean they’re going to Hell?  What’s up with Hell anyway? Is there even really a Hell?  What the hell?


All right so seriously: let’s clear up a few things.  Please forgive my scatterbrained response, but I’m just going to shot-gun spray all over this.


1) The Bible describes a real Hell and there are people going: but not just anyone goes there.

Here’s an uncomfortable thought: but maybe people go to Hell NOT because they didn’t believe in it, but because they hated Jesus Christ.  A jail isn’t built for people who don’t believe in jail; it’s built for people who reject the law.

Let’s say I share the Gospel with a five year old and he accepts it, and then he passes away the next day.  Do you think his destiny hinges on his belief in Hell?  Or is it based on his simple yet profound love for Jesus?  An even deeper thought: How much doctrine do we actually need to know in order for Jesus’ grace to somehow become effective?

Is it possible that during the theater shooting in Aurora, some of them cried out for mercy in their vague concept of Jesus at the very last second? The same with natural disasters, deathbed confessions, and sudden car crashes?  Does it count?  While I wouldn’t bet on a risk like that, I believe God is way more gracious than we could comprehend.


2) You already believe in Hell, whether you think so or not.

I believe that if I were to sit down with a Universalist and ask them point-blank, they would absolutely believe in the concept of Hell.  They just choose the wimpy way out in church services, or they have the unfortunate experience of a loved one who hated Jesus and passed away.  Deep down they know what’s right.  If their kid is raped or their family member is murdered, that facade is crumbling real quick.

You already have an implicit idea of Hell that you’ve suspected all along.  If you believe in even the slightest hint of justice, then you already believe in God’s judgment too.  No one would say, “I don’t believe in justice for a rapist and dictator and child molester.”  Unless it’s you.  In the end, we all have a secret hope that no one gets away with anything, and God is a good God who makes sure justice wins.

If you’re asking if I believe Universalists and/or Rob Bell are Christians, I’d have to say: maybe.  It’s a case-by-case scenario.  I wouldn’t attend their church, but I’d still love them like any other human being.  Ultimately it’s not for me to decide if they’re making it to Heaven or not; only God knows who are His (2 Timothy 2:19).  That’s between them and the Lord, not between me and them.


3) No one has ever been successfully motivated towards Christ by the threat of Hell.

The topic of Hell is not even anywhere close to the linchpin of Christian faith.  The funny thing is that most preachers say, “Jesus talked about hell more than anything!” — but this is some urban myth that gets tossed around as factoid.  In total, about 13% of Jesus’ spoken words are about Hell.  You can look it up yourself.

If anyone spends an inordinate amount of time on any subject, that says more about them than Jesus.  It’s the same deal with predestination, politics, homosexuality, evolution, and government.  Anything more than 13% of my focus on that stuff is really all I can stand. 

You can never reverse-argue someone into the truth.  You know this yourself.  No one ever says, “Wow you totally proved my atheism wrong, so tell me how to trust Jesus.” 

The thing is, if I tell you about eternal paradise and Jesus’ pure gift of righteousness and how much he loves you, no one ever says, “Okay so what else you got bro?” 

Inversely, some people get you off track by saying “If the other option is Hell, then God isn’t fair so screw Him.” 

Now think of that statement.  It sounds like a legitimate argument until you peel it back and see: it’s an excuse.  What they’re really saying is, “I’m afraid to get to know God because He’s going to change my life, and I sort of like my life right now with all the excess and consequences and drama and conformity.” 

The argument of God’s unfairness over Hell is just a diversion.  If you don’t believe me, then ask them: “If Hell didn’t actually exist, what’s the obstacle really keeping you from God?”


4) Let’s not forget: God already paid for it.

Most people neglect the fact that not only did God make Hell, but He Himself paid the price for it so we wouldn’t have to.

Nearly everyone says, “It’s not fair that God would send people to Hell.”  And I immediately think, “So is it fair that Jesus had to go through hell on a cross?”  No one really thinks that way. 

See: I have never had a single thoughtful conversation about Hell with anyone, ever.  We don’t live in a time of slowed-down thoughtfulness; instead we’re all yelling, “I don’t like this part, so now I gotcha!”  We’ll do anything we can to avoid the beauty of the Gospel, maybe because we have a self-centered death grip on control.  We hate grace.

Christianity is actually the only belief that has a built-in plan for the problem of humanity.  Every manmade religion offers its version of condemnation, whether they call it “spiritual impurity” or “material weakness” or “shadow self” — so you pay it off by Karma or religious rituals or the next self-help book or you cut off the whole world.  No other religion offers the God who says, “I’m going to humble myself to death on a cross for you.” 

You might think, “Well I’m not a religious person.”  Sure you are. The worldly idea of success means you better have a certain body image, get big-dollars, know this-many-people, win-the-trophies, or else you fail.  So everyone jumps through hoops to get there, and that’s pretty much hell for those people. 

Jesus is the only one who says, “I came to seek and save what was lost.  Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  It is finished.”

I’m still waiting for the day when someone tells me, “Jesus had to do what?  But that’s not fair!”  And that’s why it’s grace.  Because it isn’t fair, and it never can be.  All you can do is receive the gift and thank God for His mercy.  He not only saved you from eternal destruction, but He brought you into infinite joy.  That’s a pretty good deal.



Follow-up response

Sorry but I think it’s quite the other way around. I don’t think anyone believee every person who doesn’t confess Christ on the planet will be E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y T-O-R-M-E-N-T-E-D, doesn’t REALLY believe that. Or else they’d resent God. People say it flippantly, but I doubt they deep down believe that.

I answered:

See: you’re assuming everyone thinks like you, when really your idea of God’s justice comes from a 21st century, Enlightenment-conditioned, Western-constrained, Pavlovian-trained mind of this era. We are a product of our times, and we tend to think our current culture is superior to what came before. It’s what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” In other words, you don’t speak for everyone, and certainly not all of history.

You can argue that we are an increasingly more intelligent society, but again, that’s a Golden-Age Fallacy. You might think “better technology” means a better world, but we are just as helplessly depraved as we ever were. You can say, “Slavery is gone and we got medicine,” but we have more slaves worldwide today than we did ever before, and an estimated 26,000 children die everyday of preventable causes despite our so-called advances. Yes, we have progressed a lot, but we’ve also escalated in all the wrong ways.

A soft view on God’s justice — that there is no Hell — only came about within the last few decades or so. Think about that. You say that “everyone” doesn’t secretly believe in Hell. But the concept of a loving God is foreign nearly everywhere else except America. People the world over understand punishment, retaliation, and debt. Easterners understand a vengeful God. I’d even propose that most people begin with a concept of Hell before they ever get to a hint of God’s grace. If you think you’re superior to Easterners, you have racist blinders on.

I don’t mean to be so harsh. I understand what you’re saying, and I wish more than anyone that a place called Hell did not exist. But let’s at least be thoughtful about our own opinions and consider that your brain and mine has been trained by the recent zeitgeist. There is a way to think that is timeless and will hold up in light of human history.



When I’m asked about Hell or God’s wrath, I tell them to check out John 3:17. Even Jesus knew that Hell wasn’t a motivation for people to come to God; it’s never been a fuel for sustainable faith. It only underlines the incredible trade we get with Jesus: our pain for healing, our sorrows for joy, our sin for eternal life. We can spread around the myth that Jesus talked about Hell more than anything else (he didn’t, it was only 13% of his words), and we can act like total depravity is the entire essence of man (it’s not, if you stop taking Calvin out of context and read Romans 7 or the dang Bible). Or we can admit: we’re all uncomfortable with God’s grace because it’s just so free, so disturbing, so reckless, so amazing. The second you say, ‘What-about,’ then you’re probably afraid of such an unthinkable grace. Yes, He saves us from Hell — but more alarmingly, He saves us to Himself.

— originally posted here on my Tumblr

— J.S.

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30 thoughts on “Do Christians Have To Believe In Hell?

  1. These kinds of questions about hell have always bothered me. I have some friends who don’t believe in Jesus nor anything about the truth found in the Bible, and I’m afraid for them. Them, and millions more out there. Would God’s grace really require us to believe first and open our eyes? It is as confusing as it can possibly get. And which so much hate and legalism going around that day when the End comes is one that’s definitely fearful. I could be at peace and to “not fear” but doing just that could be similar to having blind eyes..

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    1. All of that is so true! For me it was very helpful to read Baxter Kruger’s “Jesus and the Undoing of Adam”. It helped me to understand God’s nature from a Biblical perspective as well as seeing a “lost” (in terms of teaching since 300 A.D.) idea of why Jesus died in the first place. If you want encouragement, I recommend this book. God bless! 🙂

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    2. Indeed, I fear for them as well. I’m not even sure I could say as Apostle Paul says, who was willing to switch places. It takes a certain kind of surgical love to have a thoughtful discussion on the issue; oftentimes it’s too much panic or pushiness.

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  2. JS, I want to address some of the things you say in Point #2:

    First, I’m sure that Rob Bell believes in hell. His book “Love Wins” does not promote universalism. Yes, I read it.

    Second, I think it of paramount importance that people be TAUGHT that the Jews had absolutely NO understanding or teaching about any kind of eternal punishment. So when we read the words of Jesus we MUST remember this. Context, context, context!

    No, not everyone believes in hell. But then, I am not a “Universalist”. I do believe in ultimate reconciliation through Jesus’ death alone (Romans 5, Colossians 1, I Corinthians 15, Ephesians 2, Revelation 21-22 …). You wrote:

    “I believe that if I were to sit down with a Universalist and ask them point-blank, they would absolutely believe in the concept of Hell. They just choose the wimpy way out in church services, or they have the unfortunate experience of a loved one who hated Jesus and passed away. Deep down they know what’s right. If their kid is raped or their family member is murdered, that facade is crumbling real quick.”

    What I believe is that Jesus’ death in some mysterious way brought about a great reversal of all that is wrong with the world. I believe His second coming will complete that (not through fiery judgment, but through transformation). Meanwhile, I used to believe in hell until I started studying the words translated hell in the Bible and found that we’ve been duped by the church. Sheol and Hades simply mean “the unseen” and are used to refer to the realm of the dead. They have absolutely NO connotations of punishment in them by definition. In fact, David asserts in Psalm 139 that even in Sheol God is there.

    On the other hand, Gehenna, which Jesus used EXCLUSIVELY to describe judgment is always translated hell in the N.T., but it was the an actual place and also represents a place of purifying fire, the kind that destroys everything that is not good. I can’t wait to get there, actually. A close reading of 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 will reveal that EVERYONE is gonna burn. Everyone. No one likes to talk about all the times when the Scriptures say that (it’s in the O.T. too).

    What if the lake of fire is the holiness of God that purifies instead of some sort of eternal punishment? Sounds a whole lot more like the God of the Bible to me. Especially considering we are told that Sodom is going to be restored. Hm, I thought God destroyed that place with fire?… It’s time we started taking the whole of Scripture and doing it in context, don’t you think?

    Hell was first brought forth as a Biblical concept sometime around A.D. 300. The disciples NEVER mentioned it in their preaching. (Paul only uses the word Tartaroo – Greek idea of punishment – once in all of his writings. Everywhere else Paul is using Hades – the unseen = no concept of punishment.)

    Finally, whenever Jesus talked about Gehenna He spoke in terms of reward and punishment for deeds – NEVER for what you believe. Believing in Jesus to be saved from hell is simply not in the Bible. Is there punishment and reward for our deeds? You betcha! What that looks like in eternity will remain a mystery to ALL of us until we are there.

    Methinks a better answer to this question for the church to learn is “I don’t know.” 😉

    God bless!

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    1. Thank you for your very thoughtful reply.

      Indeed, Rob Bell has affirmed his belief in hell in interviews, but in the end I suppose only God knows. I can only guess.

      I read Francis Chan’s response Erasing Hell and he brings up some decent responses to the phrase Gehenna. Some portions of Jesus’s words would read very unnaturally if we replace them with “landfill where they burn garbage.” I’m being a little snarky here but I mean to say: the Bible could be interpreted either way on the issue. Personally I prefer not to take a chance by saying “I don’t know,” though certainly we can say it.

      I remember a few months back you mentioned the language of “debt” we use in regards to Christ, and how faulty that is. I’m concluding the same thing. This particular post was written some weeks ago, and since then some of my doctrinal thoughts about Christ “paying the price” have changed. But we’re all learning here and the discussion could go on. Until then I freely confess I could be wrong, and at the same time I want to land the plane somewhere solid until convictions change.

      Thanks again for your gentle articulate response!

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      1. JS, I’m so glad you said “gentle”! I’m not usually that, although I would like to think Jesus is making me MORE of that. 🙂

        I do think our right understanding of judgment and eternal life is “evolving” into what it was in the minds of Jesus and the early Fathers. (Notice I’m implying backwards movement here.) It might really be helpful to read some Origen or some of the other early writings to get a grasp on the teachings we have truly lost through our very Roman/Law-keeping understanding of the Bible.

        Meanwhile, “I don’t know” seems a safer approach to the afterlife to me than a hard-and-fast wrong answer. But that’s jus’ me. 🙂 And truly, I don’t answer “I don’t know” anymore except in terms of exactly what ultimate reconciliation might look like. I really DO think I know that Jesus is going to win over everything – hatred and disobedience included. I think a readjustment of what the atonement really accomplished might go a long way in this discussion of hell. It’s usually where most of our discussions of this nature end up, anyway.

        It’s really good to remember that in Revelation (assuming you ascribe to a sketchy chronological view) that AFTER the judgment (lake of fire) the gates to the city are left open and the fruit of the trees are for the healing of the nations. Why would this be if all judgment has been determined already? Methinks there is more going on in eternity than just harp playing and cloud sitting. 🙂

        Grace and Peace to you!
        JF

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  3. I’m sure not one to chime in here, but what has always caused me to walk away from a universalist’s belief (because I too would rather there be no hell), is the biblical account of what Jesus endured for our sake… and that Paul and the other Apostles saw no persecution nor even death as too much to endure so that the gospel went forth. Did our Lord suffer at the hands of a wrathful God so we might avoid a temporal slap on the wrist? Did Paul suffer as he did to carry the gospel to where the name of Jesus wasn’t known so these people wouldn’t face a temporal wrath of God? Just saying, thoughts to consider. Hard post to publish I know… blessings good friend.

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    1. This is the real crux of the question, isn’t it? What exactly did Jesus suffer on the cross? What did He die to save us from? IF it was the Father’s wrath, then the Trinity is divided and God the Father is more akin to Allah than to Jesus. But if Jesus suffered to set us free from “the fear of death” and “the power of satan” (both quotes from Paul’s N.T. understanding of why Jesus died), then this whole conversation changes.

      I recommend some reading by Athanacius. If he is too difficult, “Jesus and the Undoing of Adam” is a wonderful work which simplifies the earlier writings by a man who is NOT a universalist, Baxter Kruger.

      For me, walking away from the idea of hell as ECT (eternal conscious torment) was not a result of me not wanting it to be true, it was a result of realizing that this idea flies in the face of the Father’s character as revealed by Jesus. Scripture turned me away from hell, not my own emotions or desires. 🙂

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      1. JF

        Rob Bell does not believe in Hell. What he quintessentially believes in; although he might not know it; is in the fabricated theological doctrine of Purgatory. And you describe it well. (“What if the lake of fire is the holiness of God that purifies instead of some sort of eternal punishment?:) The only thing that differentiates Hell from the classical medieval understanding of Purgatory is the hope of escape for the latter after a person has sanctified himself sufficiently to be worthy of living of heaven. What is not understood is that true righteousness is beyond even our conception and therefore how can we possibly attain that which we do not what it is.

        You said…

        “What exactly did Jesus suffer on the cross? What did He die to save us from? IF it was the Father’s wrath, then the Trinity is divided and God the Father is more akin to Allah than to Jesus.”

        Jesus died to save us from Justice, which God embodies. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne” (Ps 97:2). And if God has not impeccable Justice (and righteousness), then we, as subjects of His kingdom, have no security of person, but must logically cringe before the caprice of a capricious tyrant. That God has wrath is true; but it is immaterial with regard to satisfying the principles of Justice, which are rational and exact in nature. (How does one measure wrath such that we can satisfy it?) Strangely, in this age, it is not understood, that Christ satisfied an necessary impeccable and scrupulous justice. Grace is built on justice and not apart from it. (Romans 3:31)

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        1. Thanks for your response, Johnny. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, which is fine. 🙂 All I would like to say is that I believe grace is built on love, not justice, and that all of Scripture regarding God’s character should (must, even) be interpreted through the lens of the character of Jesus rather than the nature of the Law.

          Grace and Peace to you and yours, JF.

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          1. JF

            This is very confusing phrase “grace built on love” that you use. And I know that it used quite extensively in Christian circles. But what is grace. Grace IS love. It is a motive. Grace, in particular, is a love that is willing to seek a legitimate way to love the totally unlovable, which we are, and purify them such that our love no longer requires us to endure being kicked in the testicles all the time. And I understand that most experientially. God could not forever endure loving a person who keeps alienating Him or others by their harmful actions; or what is deemed sinfulness.

            So I don’t understand how grace can be essentially built upon itself. That statement is an irrational circularity. Law and Justice must be satisfied in order for God to legitimately (legally) love the unlovable; so that He can deal with humanity as a Father, than as a scrupulous judge in the mode of Les Miserables’ Javert’s. If He does not satisfy justice, then His Adversary can rightly point out that He is lawless, arbitrary and capricious in His judgments. Without appreciating justice, which itself, is a necessary component of love (ask the father of a raped daughter); it is no wonder that you and Rob Bell believe ultimately in universalism.

            You might subscribe to Christ satisfying the Justice or some unmeasurable wrath of God, but it is incoherent. In not understanding how justice is satisfied by the Cross, your heart of hearts will insidiously keep trying, over the years, to prove your worthiness by your own purification. Your actions will demonstrate an ultimate belief in your heart of hearts, that good works are, at minimum, a necessary component of your legal justification. This might not be your intent. But the motions of the heart are very deceitful. It keeps cropping up. And without having a credible and rational basis for your justification, you will retain this uneasy anxiety, over the ensuing years.

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    2. Thanks for appreciating the difficult of the topic. It’s a touchy sensitive issue. I’ve had relatives pass without knowing Jesus, and I keep thinking, “They grew up in Eastern/Asian culture, how could they know?” Most of my family is still not saved. So really, I write on the subject with tons of grief.

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      1. This is one of my biggest dilemmas. I have a lot of family who are not in a Christian culture. These are people who are living their lives without ever being told who Jesus is. How can God hold them responsible for something they have never heard? I have family in the US who have heard of Jesus in various ways- usually in a legalistic, judgmental way, and do not believe. How can God create people who he knows will never seek him and send them to hell?

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        1. sidurisadvice, if God is truly good, then what the church tells you does not matter. You can trust God’s goodness and disregard man’s interpretation of that. 🙂

          God bless,
          JF

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  4. “No one has ever been successfully motivated towards Christ by the threat of Hell.”

    I do think that you overstate that case. Otherwise, Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (1741), which purported was a seminal event with regard to the First Great Awakening is a historical lie; despite the eye witness accounts.

    That later preachers had a habit of adopting this formulaic methodology to fish for pseudo disciples is well refuted by your comments “Anything more than 13% of my focus on that stuff is really all I can stand.” Nevertheless, 13% of Christ’s words on the subject must have some significance.

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  5. P.S. The Eastern Orthodox church has never in all its history subscribed to a belief in a literal hell. That’s not to say there may not be attendees who believe this, it is just not an official doctrine of the church.

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  6. This is a great post. Define hell- there are so many definitions out there. And a lot of it does come down to how we think which will depend on culture, history, tradition, etc. How about trying to think the way God does about it or at least acknowledging there are other ways to think about it thus implying our own thoughts could be wrong. Interesting.

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    1. Dear Timid, AMEN! 🙂 Add to this discussion what the Jews would have understood Jesus to mean by His use of Gehenna, and you have an entirely different conversation. All in all, this subject is WAY more complex than the traditional Evangelicals of today make it sound.

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  7. Johnny,

    Wow. I don’t know where to begin. I guess I could just say that grace = love is incorrect and leave it at that? Grace is God’s ability to forgive, it’s very meaning implies that it does not require anything else in order for it to operate (i.e. change on our part or God’s). “Love is the underlying motivation for grace” simply means that because of God’s great love for us, He is motivated to give us grace (forgiveness and the power to change) without requiring anything in return. I know you don’t believe that, so maybe you should start by explaining Abraham’s cutting of the covenant in the O.T. in terms of its relationship to salvation by grace. Spoiler Alert: Abraham didn’t walk through the pieces, only God did that.

    That you understand the following statement experientially is disturbing in the extreme: “Grace, in particular, is a love that is willing to seek a legitimate way to love the totally unlovable, which we are, and purify them such that our love no longer requires us to endure being kicked in the testicles all the time.” I’m so sorry that you believe people are “totally unlovable”. This is something completely foreign to the Scriptures. I’m also sorry that you feel you have had “to endure being kicked in the testicles all the time” in order to experience God’s love. I sincerely hope that one day you will know the freedom of living in God’s grace without having to perform in order to get it.

    Jesus asserts in a million different ways that God loves us just like we are first and foremost. That He loves us enough to change us such that our own sin does not utterly destroy us is a further aspect of that love, but not a requirement to receive it.

    That’s all I can muster for now.
    God’s peace to you and yours,
    JF

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    1. I have no personal interest in intellectual, theological or spiritual upmanship. If someone proves me wrong on a point, I will concur, (perhaps not immediately), and apply it practicably as an act of trust in the virtue of the person’s point. Trust/faith is only faith if one does actually depend on the premises that one believes. I expect my life to improve in some way.

      I had to overthrow an ascetic Christianity to what is deemed ‘Christian hedonism’, without knowledge of John Piper; because I found the former was oppressive and ultimately leads to deadness of soul. In any discourse, that is my motivation.

      Therefore, if I find your speculations troublesome, it is only as a person with duties towards and concerns for you. But ultimately, you are the one who stakes his destiny on those things that you believe. If you are wrong, it is your funeral.

      You say…

      “Grace is God’s ability to forgive, it’s very meaning implies that it does not require anything else in order for it to operate (i.e. change on our part or God’s).”

      That is a curious statement. Because I definitely think faith/trust in Christ is definitely one element that is required on our part. Even if on another plane of existence, it is God who gives a sustainable faith in His Christ. On our plane of existence, we must have/exhibit it. I am certain that that requirement is mentioned well over 100 times in the New Testament. So I find your statement very odd and lacking conformity to Scriptures or any theological tradition.

      Now what is trust? It is not some spiritual sense. It is a generic term, understood by virtually all men. It is to trust a statement of fact or a person or a thing to the extent that one is willing to venture one’s being on the premises of that trust. What is called justification, upon which forgiveness is given legal foundation (which without justification, forgiveness would become lawless and unjust favoritism), is based on the Cross and Life of Christ being the foundation for that justification and forgiveness. Just as belief in any amnesty program requires applying for it, so seeking justification/forgiveness requires the applying/appropriating of that event to our condition. But faith in general in God in Christ and His counsels are required; not to be justified/forgiven but to navigate on the basis of His counsels and promises through the hills and valleys of life without losing faith in Christ’s legal salvation and forgiveness.

      The idea that God has done something, to which it doesn’t even seem that we have to acknowledge, by the logic of your position, is a rather unique private interpretation of Scriptures; something which no historical Christian sect would find consistent with Scriptures or even rationally coherent.

      I find all of your statements from way out in left field. For instance, you describe Gehenna (hell) as “a place of purifying fire, the kind that destroys everything that is not good. I can’t wait to get there, actually”. We have disparaged those who historically have sought personal martyrdom, as having a proud form of spiritual S&M. But to seek Gehenna certainly tops their spiritual peccadilloes.

      When Christ talks about heaven as a place where thieves don’t steal, I can understand why the gates of the New Jerusalem are remain open. There is nobody to fear and therefore defend from. The idea that it is to allow in those who change their mind in Hell as some Form of sudden Rapture from Hell is preposterous, especially since the Biblical language states quite explicitly that there is chasm between heaven and hell to which no one can pass either way.

      You say “A close reading of 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 will reveal that EVERYONE is gonna burn.” But the language of those verses talks about the quality of our works. That which is of gold will survive those trials of fire (wherever that takes place) etc.

      You say “Finally, whenever Jesus talked about Gehenna He spoke in terms of reward and punishment for deeds – NEVER for what you believe. Believing in Jesus to be saved from hell is simply not in the Bible.” Really! I don’t think even Rob Bell would stoop so low to make that type of claim.

      And it just goes on and on and on.

      You talk a lot of talk, but you do not demonstrate any evidence of understanding or sense that God is guiding you to all Truth. You don’t understand the Gospel or Bible at all. If I was really cynical, I would think that you were just trolling.

      So. You may get all enraged by all this. But if you have any true sense of and desire for spiritual realities, you should examine yourself to see if you are truly in the faith or even care to be. It is your funeral. I shall not be visiting this particular discourse again. I would just be simply kicking against the pricks.

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      1. This response is a reminder to me of why I left the organized religion called Christianity. That you utterly disregard Jesus’ command not to judge (“It’s your funeral”) and His promise that love for one another would be the mark of true believers rather than your version of doctrinal correctness is more a testament to your need for repentance than mine.

        For 30+ years I was in ministry leadership within one of the most doctrinally sound denominations there is, but I began to understand from the Scriptures that theological self-righteousness is an insidious love-killer. I’m sorry that you feel you have everything figured out. That’s a tough place to be for a finite, limited creature of an infinite, limitless God.

        I really do wish you all the best, Johnny and I’m sorry that my questioning of your beliefs brought out the worst in you.

        Grace and Peace,
        JF

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  8. I hesitate to get into this, but I observe one thing. Western minds complicate things in order to dilute the matter under discussion. Then they can run with it any way they choose and claim validity because the matter is complex. Really, the simple matter is if someone rejects the law justice steps in. If a person rejects Jesus, God must respect that decision and apply justice. The gift of life and peace given to such a person would be unjust, despite our stomach-churning dislike fo such a thought. Everyone has access to the knowledge about God. As Paul writes, “From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse. They knew God but did not praise and thank him for being God. Instead, their thoughts were pointless, and their misguided minds were plunged into darkness” (Romans 1:20-21 GW).
    I do not celebrate someone in rebellion. I do not gloat over someone who chooses a future without hope. I am cheesed off that Adam and Eve chose arrogance over friendship (though if they didn’t do it probably someone else would have?!?), but God made it uncomplicated to overcome that setback. Jesus cleared the way.
    It takes my breath away that God does so much to make reconciliation possible. But in the end, if God has any respect, Creator must accept whatever decision a person makes.
    Heaven describes those who choose reconciliation. Hell describes those who reject it. That is simple. Our emotional reaction to it is the issue being debated here.
    With apologies, I feel this sounds harsh and I write it with tears, not anger.
    If one of my daughters had chosen a life of crime I cannot ask the courts to let her off just because she’s my daughter and I have a greater emotional attachment than to an anonymous criminal. But I would stick with her and keep at the task of helping her find a better path. That’s the image I hold in my soul.

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    1. Right on. Any time I write or think about Hell, it’s always with grief. It’s heartbreaking. Many use it for their own “agenda,” whether fear-mongering or manipulative preaching, but if someone really understood Hell, then they would say as Paul said: he was willing to switch places with people who were headed there. Now that’s an incredible love we could only hope to have in the church.

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