"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Real Hell Is Really Holy

There is an epidemic of evangelical confusion when it comes to the biblical teaching of hell. Some contemporary Christians seem to believe (and act as if) hell is outside of God and He has nothing to do with it. In reality, hell is created by God and serves a holy purpose.

Some contemporary Christians wrongly believe that hell is a place of torture. God never tortures sinners; there is no need. The "gnawing worm" of conscience in the sinner justly sentenced to hell is enough torture, and it is all self-inflicted (see Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:44).

Hell is the place of confinement prepared by God for those He sentences on the day of judgment, a day described by Jesus as "God's coming wrath" (see Matthew 3:7). God's wrath, however, is not like the wrath of your drunk relative. God's anger towards sinners is impartial, unselfish, tempered, just and holy. He takes no pleasure in the sentencing of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32), but sentences them He will (II Thessalonians 1:8-9). Hell is the Divine prison--the place of confinement--where those sinners outside of Christ are justly sentenced for their crimes against humanity.

Christians need to start viewing hell as the end product of the most efficient, honorable, just and righteous judicial process in the history of mankind.

For example, we have several local and state judges at Emmanuel Enid. The District Attorney for the largest judicial district in Oklahoma is a member of our church. We have many policemen and police women at Emmanuel. We have sheriff deputies and jailors, probation officers, and others who are daily involved in the judicial system of Oklahoma. We consider the judicial system in our city, county and state a very good thing. It is necessary because lawbreakers exist.

The punishment of criminals in our community is a just and holy process because the people involved in the judicial process and the judges who are sentencing the criminals are honorable. The judicial system works, and its effective operation makes life better for people in Enid, Oklahoma.

So it is with God, and so it is with hell. The real hell is really holy. God's hand created it. Every person created in the image of God--but dies without Christ and His redemption--will stand before their Creator and give an account for every idle and thoughtless word, every careless and selfish action, and every hidden intention of the heart. The solemn judicial process on that day will be the most holy, righteous, and honorable event mankind will ever witness.

There will be no cries of "Unjust!" Every mouth will be silenced. Everything wrong will be made right. Justice will finally reign. Again, God will take no pleasure in the sentencing of the wicked to hell, but He will do so for the sake of His honor and His people. Hell is of God, and the real hell is really holy. Hell is the Divine prison created by God to house the wicked.

There are three words that accurately characterize hell from a biblical perspective. Hell is a place of separation, where the sinner is separated from God's mercies by a personal and real imprisonment (II Thessalonians 1:8-9). Hell is a place of isolation, where the sinner is isolated from all human relationships in a place of complete darkness. But what is difficult for many people to understand is that hell is a place of continuation, where the sinner lives, breathes, and exists as a human being. God raises all the dead on the day of judgment (not just the righteous), and those whose names are not in the book of life will have the record books opened and every recorded thought, action, and intention in their lives will be brought to light, and they will give an account to God (Romans 2).

Hell is the prison reserved for those who are found guilty, and according to Romans 3:23, the guilty verdict will be heard by every human being apart from Christ.

Now here's the deal. God is as glorified in the sentencing of the wicked (His justice) as He is in the deliverance of His people from the day of wrath (His grace). Augustine even goes further in his commentary on Isaiah 66:24 when he says, "For those who shall be in hell shall not know what is going on in the joy of the Lord; but they who shall enter into that joy shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness." In other words, Augustine taught that Scripture declares the holy and judicial punishment of the wicked in hell makes heaven a better place.

Christians throughout the centuries have disagreed on how God's justice is impartially displayed in the sentencing of individual sinners in hell. How is it just for Adolph Hitler to receive the same prison sentence of separation and isolation from God and people that a twelve-year-old boy who dies without Christ receives? Answers to this question vary:

(1). Some say that there will be eventual annihilation. John Stott is in this camp. He says that the prison sentence for the wicked varies. The less wicked are rewarded with a lesser sentence in hell. The most wicked will spend the most time in hell. In the end, all the wicked will receive personal destruction and cease to exist. Eternal life is only the gift for those in Christ.

(2). Some say that there will be expectant restoration. George McDonald and C.S. Lewis were in this camp. McDonald was Lewis' mentor and both wrote of what they called "hopeful restoration" where God would eventually win over and restore even the most wicked with His amazing love. Lewis did not go as far as McDonald, but both men believed in degrees of rewards and punishment in hell, with the hope that God would eventually win the wicked over by His love.

(3). The majority of evangelicals (including me) believe in eternal condemnation. I am sympathetic with both of the arguments above, and understand how people have arrived at them. However, I believe that sin against God deserves eternal condemnation because the sin is against an eternal God. What makes rebellion against God so egregious is the nature of God against whom the sin is committed, not necessarily the nature of the sin.. Fire an arrow through the heart of a deer, you will be praised. Fire an arrow through the heart of a man, you will be condemned. What makes one's action evil is the nature of the One against whom the action is taken. God is eternal, transcendent, and Creator of all. A sin against Him is deserving of eternal condemnation.

However, I do believe that somehow, someway, eternal punishment in hell (which is never torture) will vary from sinner to sinner. Jesus said that the people of Tyre and Sidon would find their sentencing on the day of judgment "more tolerable" than the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Matthew 10:15). For the third time: The real hell is really holy. No mistakes of justice are ever made by God in His righteous and impartial sentencing of the wicked.

Application: Evangelical churches and mission boards make a huge mistake when they don't rightly understand that hell is of God and hell is holy. When we go into the world and act as if God is desperately trying to keep people from hell, we are lying to sinners. Hell is created by God because there are sinners. Instead of going to the world with good news, we should tell them the bad news. Every person outside of Christ will give an account to their Creator for everything they've ever thought, said or done. After being weighed in the scales of His justice, they will be found wanting, and He will sentence them to an appropriate, just and personal term of isolated imprisonment.

However, if sinners begin to feel desperate about their predicament when they hear the bad news, and they begin to feel a desire for deliverance from the wrath to come, then we tell them the good news that Jesus Christ died for sinners.

We churches screw this up big time. We go to sinners who have never felt their accountability to God and say, "Smile, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." Truth is, we should reserve that message to those who are in Christ. Sinners who have never felt their need of a Savior need to be given the grim, solemn news that there is a day of wrath coming. Their only hope is to flee to Him who provides an escape.

When a sinner comes to faith in Christ a Great Exchange takes place. All of the sinner's sins are taken by Christ; all of them--past, present and future--because God is not bound by time and when Christ died He died for all the sins of His people. The believer in Christ exchanges his sins for the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. He takes our sins; we receive His righteousness. This Great Exchange is the reason our names are written in the Book of Life and we escape the Day of Wrath.

The evidence that our name is written in the Book of Life by God Himself is that we are continually growing to love others the way He has loved us (John 13:35) and we live lives that could not be accurately described as "sinless" but lives that are always "turning from" our sins (Matthew 1:21) and "turning toward" God in faith. God's people are trophies of grace and are redeemed for the praise and honor of His grace.

Likewise, men who rebel against their Creator--by their own free agency I might add, never forced to rebel by a holy God--and refuse to bow before the only true Deliverer available to sinners, will experience a just and holy sentence of punishment in hell. For the sake of the praise of God's justice and the recognition of the biblical truth that hell is the Divine means for making all things right in the universe, please never forget that the real hell is really holy.

63 comments:

Beverly Shelite said...

Once again you are challenging some long held beliefs. I need to read your blog again and look up some scripture, and then I will have dome questions.

Melonee said...

Awesome post, Wade!

Bob Cleveland said...

How would you apply these thoughts to the report of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19 & following?

The Bible speaks of torment and the rich man spoke of being in fire and in agony.

No disagreement on its holiness, though.

Wade Burleson said...

Bob,

Great question. The torment is self-inflicted. The fire is a fire that does not consume (God's holiness), and cannot be the kind of fire we in the west think about (hell is dark, not full of light), and the agony of hell is the conscience gnawing at the sinner.

Again, great question.

Wade Burleson said...

Beverly and Melonee,

Thanks!

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

At first glance I read ‘The Real Hell is Really Hot’, and I thought you got it right. Oh well…

Question: Where will the devil and his demons be, and will they appreciate the rest?

Victorious said...

hmmm.. this suggestion about reversing the method of presenting the gospel to sinners is interesting Wade. What I'm wondering is this. If a murderer, thief, tax evader, for example, has no respect for federal, state, or civil laws, will fear of God's justice will have any effect on them?

On the other hand, I've heard of many prison conversions. Perhaps that's because the law-breaker has come to realize there is just punishment for ignoring the law both here and in eternity.

But which method would be most effective with the poor, oppressed, hopeless, sinner? How might those respond to a message of fear and more hopelessness?

Perhaps rather than a "one-size fits all" approach, Paul's advice about knowing how to respond to each person is more appropriate.

Col 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

Thinking out loud here....

Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

Wade Burleson said...

"But which method would be most effective with the poor, oppressed, hopeless, sinner? How might those respond to a message of fear and more hopelessness?"

The "poor, hopeless sinner" who is cognizant of his sin never needs to hear of justice.

He needs the good news of Christ.

The initial work of the Spirit has already taken place.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

“They began screaming at him. “Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before God’s appointed time?” (Matthew 8:29 NLT)

“…In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” (Mark 5:7 NLT)

“…Please, I beg you, don’t torture me!” (Luke 8:28 NLT)

Looks to me like the demons knew if Jesus cast them out, they would go to hell before“God’s appointed time”.

Wade, you said, “God never tortures sinners”.

Are demons sinners?

Rex Ray said...

Victorious,

I’m jealous—why does Wade answer your question when I asked first? :)
I probably won’t get an answer on this one either—will you marry me?

Wade Burleson said...

Rex,

Demons are not humans, as you know.

Also, nowhere in the texts above does it say God is going to torture demons. The demons say it.

It's probably not wise to get one's theology from demons.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

All people would be wise to get the demons’ theology in recognizing Jesus as the Son of God.

Since demons have been at war with God for thousands of years, I believe they know a lot more than we do.

Because Jesus didn’t correct their theology about their torture, I believe they have it right.

Jeff Adams said...

Great Post Wade! On the "Demon Theology"(not for you Wade) They may have been at war with God for along time, however, they never have recieved the insight a Christian does with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. A demon must rely on lies and trickery, we have the Holy Spirit to help guide us in truth and knowledge. That is enough to claim victory in wisdom over any demon, in my opinion. El Shaddai.

Bob Cleveland said...

I've been involved in some prison ministry and what I've found is that you don't have to do a lot of explaining to a criminal to convince him he's a sinner. That he's guilty.

Also, the substance of the abundant life is a Spiritual, not temporal substance .. and the lost person cannot perceive that Spiritual truth. IMO, the only thing the lost person can understand is what Jesus said that Holy Ghost would convict the world of .. sin, righteousness and judgment. It seems those verses point to salvation as a means of escape from the results of sin and judgment, not the means to terrific life (which the lost person can't understand anyway).

Trying to tell a single mom with 2 kids and no job, who's about to be evicted, that her life will suddenly be abundant if she just trusts Jesus, isn't even speaking her language.

RRR said...

Wade,

I'm not sure of the intent of some of your statements and suspect that additional clarification will surface through your responding to comments and questions of others. I'm particularly interested in better understanding some of your statements which on the surface seem to be contradictory but I’m guessing that’s because I’m not in the same “zone” with you yet. For instance:

Wade said: “The "gnawing worm" of conscience in the sinner justly sentenced to hell is enough torture, and it is all self-inflicted (see Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:44).” Neither of these passages leads me to see any suggestion that the source of hell’s torment and suffering has anything to do with it originating in the “conscious in the sinner” as though somehow being self-originated. Is that what you’re proposing? These passages contradict that.

Wade said: “Some contemporary Christians wrongly believe that hell is a place of torture. God never tortures sinners; there is no need.” I don’t know if you’re suggesting that hell us not a place of torment, the most extreme pain and misery, pain as in the mightiest of fires or not. Scripture clearly states otherwise and some of your other statements do as well. Maybe you’re stating that the punishment is justly applied to those who deserve it and are not redeemed. I hope to better understand your thoughts on this statement too.

If Augustine says that residents in hell are not aware of the status of those in heaven then he is in direct contradiction to the portrayal of hell that Jesus presented with poor Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man in hell not only was aware of Abraham and Lazarus being in a better place than he but the rich man was also aware of his surviving loved ones remaining in the physical realm. I believe this awareness is a huge part of the suffering. Abraham and Lazarus were fully aware of the rich man’s dilemma in hell too. I see no suggestion in the Isaiah 66:24 passage to affirm Augustine’s position if that’s what he was using as the basis of such a situation. Granted the people in their perspective eternal residents (heaven and hell) never “experience” life in those alternative places but they are both “aware” of the existence of what’s going on there if we believe what Jesus said and I know we all do.

I feel pretty sure that more clarification will reveal our having common ground on these statements as we have with the bulk of your post. It’s a great medium for emphasizing the judgment that lies ahead and Ezekiel 33 says that if we don’t sound the alarm we will be held accountable! Thanks a lot for the post and topic.

RRR said...

"and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." Rev. 20:10I'm sure the demons will be there too.

Wade Burleson said...

RRR,

Apocalyptic language in Scripture is always couched in symbols. For example:

"The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shake" (Matthew 24:29) is a prophecy of the judgment of God on Israel.

This apocalyptic language was used in the Hebrew Scriptures to describe the fall of the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and other kingdoms upon whom the judgment of God fell (see Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:30, 31; Joel 3:15, 16; Amos 8:9). The language, metaphorical in nature, is symbolic of the fall of the leaders of those nations and empires.

Likewise, the apocalyptic language of the final judgment uses metaphorical language.

"The fire that does not consume" is always God. In Hebrew Scriptures He is the fire that does not consume - i.e. "Moses and the burning bush."

If it be objected that the last verse of Hebrews 12 says "Our God is a CONSUMING fire" I respond - God's fire (His presence) always consumes and destroys sin, but HELL is a casting away of the sinner into outer darkness-- OUT OF HIS REVEALED PRESENCE. The sinner is left alone in his sin, and the torment and torture of the isolation and abandonment of the sinner IN HIS SIN is punishment enough.

How can "The Lake of Fire" be justly called dark? Because God is in hell just as much as He is in heaven. The problem for those in hell is there is none of God's mercy, none of His grace, none of His love. There is justice, there is holiness, there is righteous wrath.

The darkness is as metaphorical as the fire. The prison is real. The prisoner is real. The isolation is real. The abandonment is real. The torture is within the sinner who has a long time to think of his rebellion.

The greatest mistake Christians make is to take apocalyptic language of the Hebrew people and make it literal. The language is very vivid and very symbolic.

Symbols represent SOMETHING ELSE.

Hell is a place of confinement, separation and isolation for real people who have rebelled against a very real Creator.

Tom Kelley said...

Good words, Wade.

I think some people confuse the words torture and torment. Hell is a place of torment (severe suffering) not a place of torture (inflicting pain in order to force someone to do something). Big difference.

Wade Burleson said...

Tom,

Great point.

RRR said...

Wade,

Thanks a lot for taking the time to respond and share how you came to the conclusions you make in the blog. I can understand how one can interpret things this way when applying the passages and teachings as symbols, metaphors and allegorically.

I totally agree with how non-literal prophecies and symbols are used in Scripture. We say that Isaiah 7:14 is a prophecy of the virgin birth of The Messiah when at the same time it was in reference to a contemporary virgin who would give birth to a child as a symbol for Ahaz. Abraham was told to sacrifice his only son Isaac to God and many of us interpret that story as being full of symbolic portrayal of The Messiah’s life being sacrificed. Scripture often refers to those who are dead as “being asleep” and uses the “hands, eyes, feet, head” of a spiritual God symbolically, or “man being created in the image of God”, etc. I had an Old Testament professor in seminary back before the conservative acquisition of control of the SBC who taught specifically that the Creation account of Adam and Eve and their fall from grace was totally allegorical as were the story of Job and many other Biblical accounts.

So of course I am aware of symbolism and such. Symbolism was indeed used in prophecies related to the later fall of empires but Babylon, Assyria, Greece and Rome literally did later exist and fall.

The huge challenge for us all is ascertaining what is symbolic opposed to what is literal. Maybe heaven is symbolic. Maybe hell is symbolic. Maybe Satan is symbolic of our bad “conscience”. Maybe the Holy Spirit is symbolic of our good “conscience”. Maybe being “baptized” does not literally mean going into the water but rather being baptized by the Holy Spirit in spiritual terms. Maybe “unquenchable fire” means one that can’t be extinguished while it’s burning but not intended to mean “non-ending”. Given that The Bible does not specifically define what is and what isn’t “symbolic” I suppose it’s left up to us to wrestle with the differentiation and I totally respect your right to the position you’ve taken. I guess we hear the Holy Spirit’s voice saying different things?
Oooh; now that would make an interesting blog post topic.

Rex Ray said...

Tom Kelley,

Thank you! Thank you for your insight on pointing out the difference between “torture” and “torment”.

I guess the demons were right in asking Jesus not to torture them. (Pain to make them change and they didn’t want to change.)

David (NAS) Rogers said...

I will make the comment that eventual annihilation is an eternal condemnation and an eternal punishment. It will never be remedied into whatever sequence that eternity has.

Christiane said...

When so very much of the 'energy' of many a faith community is evidenced in their concern for others expressed by attempting to create fear in others of 'going to hell',
is it at all possible to re-direct that energy into pointing towards Christ instead?

I have concern for the depth and breadth of the 'negativity' out there and I think that much of it which encourages fearfulness is sadly misguided.

When emphasis on 'hell' is taken out of context within the whole kerygma of Christ,
something is lost in the process and I think that something is the 'hope' and the 'trust' needed for a child-like dependency on the great Mercy of God Himself.

below is video that celebrates Christian hope and trust:
http://vimeo.com/65019294

Rex Ray said...

Christiane,

You have a great heart and I understand what you’re saying; BUT.

As a kid, I remember songs that motivated me to accept Jesus. I felt the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart on hearing; “Jesus is calling”, but on the other hand I felt the need not to delay; “Why not tonight—Tomorrow, the sun may never shine.”

When I was seven, this prayer made me fearful:

I lay myself down to sleep
If I die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to keep

People on their death-beds don’t accept Jesus to have a great life. They don’t want to go to hell.

The video reveals dedication, and I don’t mean to be critical, but does a coffin portray life or fear? I’ve seen many pictures of Jesus in people’s homes but never a coffin.

Wade Burleson said...

David (NAS) Rogers,

"I will make the comment that eventual annihilation is an eternal condemnation and an eternal punishment. It will never be remedied into whatever sequence that eternity has."

Agreed. I am impressed with your grasp of the issues.

You may be surprised to know that I can make a pretty solid argument for Stott's position myself and respect it immensely. I could one day land there, mostly because I see hell as the place of rewards for moral behavior (not heaven, where believers are rewarded for Christ's perfect righteousness, thus we are "co-heirs" with Christ), and about the only way you could encourage a lost man to be moral is to let him know that his sentence on the day of judgment will be more tolerable than if he lived in wicked abandonment.

Christiane said...

Hi REX RAY,
in case you didn't have sound for the film 'The Coffin Maker', I transcribed the words for you, this:

"“The first coffin I ever built was for my . . . my child when my wife had a miscarriage. It took me a while to figure out how to make the panels wide and make them pretty . . . it’s such a personal thing to have your hands on there and to be really working with it
Coffin-making seems to have really begun with furniture makers . . . metal is a fairly recent innovation and apparently we use enough metal now in our coffins to rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge buried in the ground . . .
To build an entire casket takes me about 25 hours . . . mostly what I do is I sand, I sand and I sand and I sand . . . I never feel like it’s finished but then I guess that is kind of a fit thing because that’s probably how we feel at the end of our lives
I think one of the most important aspects of the coffin is that it can be carried, and I think we’re meant to carry each other, and I think carrying someone you love and committing them is very important for us and when we deal with that we want to know that we have played a part in that we have shouldered our burden. So, if we make it too convenient, we are depriving ourselves of a chance to get stronger so that we can carry on.
When I’m out here by myself, or in the middle of the night or something like that, I can get a sense of how ‘work’ is ‘love made visible’ . . . you know the Benedictine monks say ‘work and pray’ and I guess those things bleed together for me so it’s not that I have some words in my head, it’s more a state of love and becoming a small part of a bigger picture that I don’t fully understand. I’m building something for someone that people tend to think is a destination, people tend to think that the grave is ‘the end’ but I’m trying to eliminate that. No.
It’s a doorway’

val said...

A gift for you from the wilderness.
The true Gospel is now delivered to you Rev 12:6 as a witness Matt 24:14.
Our heavenly Father will NOT put any child of his into a hell fire no matter what their sins. Sin doesn't scare God! He created it Isa 45:7 to teach us all the knowledge of good and evil Gen 3:22 for our eternal placement in his coming kingdom. Throwing a child of his into a hell fire has never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer7:31, Jer 19:5. Anyone preaching a hell fire for any child of God has been deceived into teaching lies. The whole world has been believing in a god of hate murder and revenge (The devil Rev 12:9). The true word of God John 1:1 is now delivered Rev 12:5 here http://thegoodtale.wordpress.com/

God chose a woman Rev 12 to be the prophet like unto Moses Num 12:3 and Elijah Matt 17:3, Acts 3:21-23, Luke 1:17. Those professing themselves to be Christians would be wise to hear all Acts 3:23 BEFORE making any judgment. The proof of what I tell you is in the hearing.

Prove ALL things 1 Thes 5:21. Satan has deceived the whole world Rev 12:9 until now.

Nicholas said...

Our above friend "val" believes that she is a prophet fortold in Bible prophecy:

http://thegoodtale.wordpress.com/evidence/

More craziness:

http://thegoodtale.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/what-does-god-think-about-christmas/

Rex Ray said...

Val,
You’re correct in saying, “Our heavenly Father will NOT put any child of his into a hell fire…”

BUT:

“You are children of your father the devil...” “…But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.” (John 8:44, 47 NLT)

“So now we can tell who are the children of God and who are children of the devil…” (1 John 3:10 NLT)

BTW, does your saying: “A gift from you from the wilderness” makes you the reincarnated John the Baptists?

Oops! Just read the link that Nicholas gave, and you said:

“God has raised me up of my brethren. I am the woman of Revelation 12.”


Christiane, where is Joe when we really need him? :)

Christiane said...

REX,
an observation: after an 'episode' severe enough, there is sometimes quiet for a while

please keep him in prayer

Rex Ray said...

Christiane,

Yes, prayer is the best, but on the ‘light side’ maybe Joe and Val would be good for each other.

I mean, Val considers Joe as one of “my brethren” that she has been raised over, and he is ‘good’ at stomping on people to bring them down.

See, I think they may balance each other…she could bounce Scripture out of context all day long against his attitude as hard as steel.

Christiane said...

REX,

you always manage to make me smile :)

Rex Ray said...

Christiane,

Thanks! You make me smile also.

stevenstarkmusic said...

I believe that the idea of an everlasting hell for those who believe differently is the greatest sin of Christianity. It is the source of fear that drives prejudice against those who are different. People are afraid that with one wrong step - eternal suffering. Therefore we cannot tolerate anything that might threaten the status quo......

Of course, this belief also gives this meme a certain degree of fitness. If you want a belief to continue (conservative Christianity), teach people that they will experience eternal suffering if they depart from it.....


“The punishment of criminals in our community is a just and holy process because the people involved in the judicial process and the judges who are sentencing the criminals are honorable. “

A sentence is just or it is not - independent of who gives it.


“The judicial system works, and its effective operation makes life better for people in Enid, Oklahoma.”

Very true. Because the justice system provides protection to society and an attempt at rehabilitation for criminals (or it should at least). Everlasting hell does not make life better for anyone, because it never changes anything or works to heal anything. And no one is protected by it.


“the holy and judicial punishment of the wicked in hell makes heaven a better place.”

This is a crass form of utilitarianism. Ask the mothers of those damned if they really think every tear will be wiped from their eyes while their child is in “the box” forever. This theology is morally bankrupt.

George Macdonald believed in a moral and just form of hell - one that must lead to a better future, a universal reconciliation. An everlasting hell actually signals God’s defeat, since He wills no one to be damned forever (1 Timothy 2:4). If there is a God of love, I don’t think He will accept everlasting defeat. Surely He can accomplish His own will?

Surely everlasting revenge without the hope of change is not the product of love. Or justice.

“I believe that sin against God deserves eternal condemnation because the sin is against an eternal God.”

This makes little sense. We punish the killer of a human rather than the killer of a deer, because the former has done greater damage. No one can damage God.

We punish people more for assaulting a head of state, because of the greater vulnerability of our society when a head of state is threatened. God is not vulnerable.

We punish more when we are more vulnerable.

The more powerful God is - the less He needs to protect Himself. His interest would only be in the well-being of his creation. He doesn’t need to protect His “honor”. That is what warlords do who are always paranoid about someone trying to usurp them.

There is a lot of use of the word “holy” here. But if you divorce hell from redemptive love, then “holy” is a meaningless term. It just means “powerful”.

I pray that Christians will listen to their consciences more than their traditions. The idea of everlasting Hell is immoral. It is the idea that a powerful god punishes beings forever, not for their betterment and restoration, but for his own glory. Simply to assert his own power. 


Frankly, this is a disgusting idea. I ask Christians not to compartmentalize this away. We all know that if WE acted this way, we would consider it deeply wrong. What if we punished others simply for revenge rather than for the protection of society and for restorative purposes? That would be wrong.

What if we did that to our children? ugh. And the Bible says we all bear the image of God - we resemble our creator (parent). Do we punish children simply for payback? Of course not.

Whey should we expect that from God? Or call evil good because we worship strength and power more than right and wrong?

stevenstarkmusic said...




“Likewise, men who rebel against their Creator--by their own free agency I might add, never forced to rebel by a holy God”

I would ask one question - I agree that hell must be in the presence of God, because nothing can be outside of God’s will. Therefore the “free agency” must also be a product of God’s will.

If it is not, then who created this will and its actions?

Anonymous said...

Some might find the study of patristic universalism enlightening.

It shocked me to find out that not every early Christian held to eternal hell. Hell, yes, but eternal, no.

And to learn those patristic universalists are so far from liberal it makes your head spin, believe hell is very real and very full, but also believe it has a purpose of redemption.

Linda

Bob Cleveland said...

This post triggered another thought in my brain cavity, that I thought I'd pass along.

I've said for years that the biggest difference when we get to heaven is going to be in me. Something in me is going to have to change, or else I'd think I could even get tired of heaven.

We do get used to things, you know. Think of a time when you might have done something, intentionally or otherwise, that hurt someone. Even where forgiven, it's still a bother, but we eventually get accustomed to the occurrence, and it'll stop bothering us. We go days, then weeks, then years without ever thinking about it.

The same thought would be true for living inside Disney World, or in the Bahamas, or wherever. Eventually, we'd get used to it. Peg and I have traveled enough that we can't think of a place we want to go, bad enough, to travel to get there.

Let's apply that thought to Heaven. It'll be wonderful, beyond description even, and if we never grow accustomed to it, it'll be a thrill beyond description. Forever!

Now think about the incident that hurt someone else. It would be a miserable life if you never grew accustomed to it. You felt the pain and anguish forever. It might even be that such a thought drives some folks to take their own life.

Finally, apply that thought to an eternity without God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. Separation from loved ones, or anybody else, and no God. And an eternity to think about it, without ever getting used to the thought. Knowing you could have done something about it before you died.

And no way to end it.

If that's how it is, I shudder at the thought. And it's probably worse than that.

Steven Stark said...

Linda,

Thanks for that. I am not sure what "liberal" means in different people's contexts....but yes - I don't know of anyone who does not believe in punishment.

It's just that some people believe in redemptive punishment instead of simply revenge.

Best, Steven

RRR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RRR said...

Steven said: "I believe that the idea of an everlasting hell for those who believe differently is the greatest sin of Christianity."

Steven, I hope you're still there.

You have to attribute this concept to Christ Himself. He's the One who says that He is the "only" way to God's redemption. He's also the One who describes hell as an everlasting, eternal, non-ending condition. It's Jesus who describes hell as a place of tremendous, indescribable torment in a flaming fire for those judged unredeemed.

When Christians proclaim this image they are simply repeating the teachings of Christ. They are obediently “warning” those who have not yet responded to “The Good News” that there is an escape from this terrible, eternal judgment that is pending for all who are outside the Kingdom of God.

Steven, none of us are any better than you. If you interpret our warning to you and others about the pending judgment that we all face and all deserve as “our” somehow condemning you then you misunderstand our intent.

If you want to walk away from this warning then it’s “you” who decides to reject “God’s” warning. That's entirely your decision and the folly of that is now upon your head, not mine or others who have pointed out this truth to you. But God’s Word says that if we followers of Jesus are negligent in warning you and describing the judgment that lies ahead for you then God will hold “us” responsible!

This is why I continue to be confused as to why Wade and so many others who have commented struggle to accept the literal portrayal of hell as it is clearly described in the Bible. It concerns me that they are determined to “mellow out” and “dumb down” the description of hell that is so vividly portrayed throughout the Bible. Hell is bad news for those who have not chosen to enter into the Kingdom of God through the narrow, exclusive, "different" door of Jesus Christ. Being eternally separated from God is only one aspect of the horrendous torment to be experienced. They will experience tremendous pain and suffering in addition to the despair of knowing that they will never, never experience the grace of God's Holy presence and forgiveness.

Those who reject God’s clear warning are the people bent on creating their own means of escaping God's judgment and they choke at the thought that there is only one, God-prescribed alternative; Jesus Christ. Don’t get angry at us Jesus followers who proclaim the truth as it is literally laid out in God's Word. Don’t interpret our concern for you and our obedience in expressing our compassion as being “our” judgment directed toward you.

Bob Cleveland said...

Is it necessary to believe that the streets of heaven are literally paved with gold? Could it be that heaven is such a neat place that God used the words portraying the most value, the greatest worth?

Could the same thought be true of hell? That God is telling us in terms of the greatest suffering a soul can experience?

I think so.

Steven Stark said...

RRR,

Thanks for the response!

My main point is not that Christians are judgmental. And my main point is not that God will or won’t damn people forever. Rather, my main point is that it would be immoral to do so. It would not be the action of true love.

Of course there are many other points - the word “ainios” which Christ uses in Scripture (such as in the parable of the sheep and goats) is translated as “eternal”, but it is used in many contexts where it cannot mean “everlasting” - such as describing the priesthood of Aaron and his sons, the Jewish temple, the Mosaic system, Jonah’s stay in the belly of a whale, the mystery kept from people but now disclosed (Paul in Romans), etc.

Clearly the word “eternal” in Scripture does not necessarily mean "everlasting". Rather, I think the best interpretation of “eternal” is that it refers to something that is of the realm of God which will have an eternal, and everlasting, effect.

And there is the point about whether the gospels are actually the words of Christ, etc. This is a broad subject, but I would contend the gospels were written by the early church to serve their current needs, and only vaguely resemble the actual words of Jesus.

And there is the inconsistency of Scripture - sometimes there is seemingly an everlasting hell, others times “all” are saved - God has given all up to sin so that He can have mercy on ALL. Not “all types”, but all. Romans 11 deserves a very close reading. Fascinating stuff.

(cont.)


Steven Stark said...

(cont.)

But back to the main point. An everlasting hell is not a moral punishment. It does not have redemptive purpose. It does not educate, rehabilitate, or protect anyone.

This type of theology changes Christ’s mission. No longer is he saving people from terrible sins. Instead, he is saving people from a terrible God.

If God is love, this is not possible. Unless we change the definition of love.

None of us would lock our children, or anyone, away for all time with no hope of reprieve. We would not tolerate everlasting torture. We know this is wrong.

Yet Christians often suspend their consciences when thinking about ideas of hell, and God unfortunately.

Perhaps I cannot convince you that you should not believe in everlasting hell (as Linda pointed out, there is a big difference between “hell” and “everlasting hell”).

But please don’t tell me that it is right and good. You have to change the definition of “right and good” to make that work. And then communication is impossible.

At least admit that it troubles the conscience that many of our own friends and family (mine and yours) will be cut off from us, and they will be miserable, forever. Please admit that there is no way every tear could be wiped from our eyes while such suffering exists. Unless God gives everyone a divine lobotomy.

But I have more faith in a God of love than that.


As to the literal nature of Hell, Bob is right (even if we disagree on other aspects). My dad was a Southern Baptist minister. He always said, “Biblical descriptions of hell can’t be literal. They mention darkness and fire, and there cannot be darkness if there is fire.”

My view of hell (if it exists), is that we are shown the true nature of all our actions in the fire of God’s pure objective and loving viewpoint. Such a picture would literally cause “every knee to bow” - not out of power and torture, but out of love and conviction. The horror of our limited viewpoints would be revealed. Yet it would make our new understanding of God and love that much richer.

And for those who resist - let them. As long as God keeps the door open, all will eventually find their way home. For surely they were created for His salvation and surely all reality was created for an eventual universal reconciliation. We have the choice as to how difficult our road must be. But the end must be assured.

Surely God must accomplish His will and have the victory. Sin and death will not have any prizes or triumphs in the end. When people ask “Death, where is thy sting?”, surely there will not be clear answers to point to forever.

Love never fails.

Bob Cleveland said...

We somehow want to think that things which are true for us are true for God, and vice versa. That's in line with our tendency to want to deify ourselves, or humanize God. And those a no-nos.

We don't get to define what's "moral" or "good" for God to do. God is the one Who defines that. It's what He does and what He says He will do.

Steven Stark said...

"We don't get to define what's "moral" or "good" for God to do."


That is fine, but then we cannot say anything like "God is good" , because it is redundant. We are just saying "God is God", because anything God does is, by definition, "good".

But this is problematic, because what if God (reportedly) does something, and it does not match up with our definition of what is good?

What if God commanded rape or murder? What if He commanded torture for fun? Would these things then necessarily be good?

ANd If we say "God would never do that", then it is clear that we do have a conscience - we do have a sense of what is good.

If we don't have a conscience, then what is "good" is simply arbitrary rules. But I think goodness is real and more than the product of authority.

So if we say "God is good", then there must be some meaning that we ascribe to "good."

If not, then God is not good or evil. He is simply powerful.

Steven Stark said...

Another way to think about it,

"We somehow want to think that things which are true for us are true for God, and vice versa"


If what is true for us is not true for God, then we cannot speak at all about God, and the business of theology is moot.

If everyone says something is yellow, but we can clearly see that it is red, do we say "this isn't yellow, this is red!"

Or do we say, "I guess what is true for that is not true for me. I guess I will change the definitions of yellow and red to preserve what everyone was saying."?

RRR said...

Steven,

I can see you are putting a lot of thought into this and that's good. However, it seems that you are placing a lot of weight on mere conjecture as you begin to shy away from taking the Bible in its literal portrayal. When we begin to minimize the truth of the words of New Testament Scripture on the grounds that the writers (who were first generation Christians, most who lived and walked with Jesus) were writing to accommodate their own agenda we may as well throw out the entire Bible. Why believe any Scripture? Why not sit back and dream up our own concoction of religion as does so many other cults?

As to hell not being moral or God not being good to allow such a thing I find an explanation by relating to the severity of sin. Think of it. The entire Bible is a historical account of God's Plan of redeeming man following man's fall from grace. Consider that a God that is 100% holy and righteous cannot accept anything less than pure holiness to be in fellowship with Him. Consider that God's plan for the redemption of mankind was to come into the physical realm Himself for the sake of giving His own life in payment for the sins of mankind. This is the Plan portrayed throughout Scripture from the time that Adam and Eve broke fellowship with God.

When one considers the magnitude of God's redemptive Plan we can understand why He could not accept any less than a person committing to accepting it as God's only way for us to be redeemed. If hell were any less than what is portrayed clearly in Scripture then it would not require such a monumental payment for redemption.

So is God good? How can we say otherwise when we are like fools in rejecting Him and sinning to gratify our own carnal desires but in spite of this He goes to such lengths to pay the penalty for our sins? When you have a fan running on the desk and tell your 12 year old not to stick their finger into the spinning blades and they insist on doing it anyway just to spite you are you to be assessed as being mean because you put the fan there and they got their finger cut? That's probably a lame illustration. The fact is that God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the forbidden tree. He tells us to trust in His Son Jesus Christ. He warns us. He pleads with us. He gives all that He can and more than we deserve.

As far as our being in heaven and suffering over loved ones who are not there with us we can only imagine that our understanding must be elevated to a far higher level than it is at this stage for us to be able to cope with that. That’s the only way I can respond on that one.

One other point related to Brother Bob's comment about streets of gold. That description in Scripture is not made in reference to heaven prior to the destruction of the existing heaven and earth. It's made in reference to the new heaven and earth.

I enjoy this dialogue but doubt that either of us will shift our position. I know that I won’t be moved toward yours. I wish you would come to a position of “trusting” in Scripture more literally though and pray that will happen.

Steven Stark said...

RRR,

Thanks for your words.

I think that deciding to take the Bible literally is “mere conjecture”. This is a broad, different subject, but the Bible is an incredible work written by many different people with many different points of view.

Within Scripture, we have a God who throws stones to kill Canaanites. A God that kills children time and time again (such as the first-born of Egypt among many other examples). We have a God that endorses murder and implied abortion (Numbers 31:17 and context). We have a God that condones slavery throughout Scripture.

Then we have the new “freedom in Christ” where love and treating your neighbor as yourself is the basis for ALL.

I don’t think God changed. I think man changed in His search for, and portrayal, of God.


The basis for what we believe is our own hearts and minds. This is true even if you take the Bible literally, because you must have decided to do so with your own heart and mind.

My source of authority is not different than yours - I have just come to a different conclusion.

“When you have a fan running on the desk and tell your 12 year old not to stick their finger into the spinning blades and they insist on doing it anyway just to spite you are you to be assessed as being mean because you put the fan there and they got their finger cut?”

I like this illustration, because it shows that there are reasons for right and wrong. That which benefits or hurts. Morality must have reasons, not just be authoritarian rules - whatever the source.


“As far as our being in heaven and suffering over loved ones who are not there with us we can only imagine that our understanding must be elevated to a far higher level than it is at this stage for us to be able to cope with that. That’s the only way I can respond on that one.”

I thank you for this acknowledgement. You are acknowledging that it certainly seems evil to rejoice when our friends and family suffer. And you are suggesting that God will change our perception of right and wrong. At least you are not outright defending what is clearly evil.

But according to what we mean by “good” and “evil” today - seeing my good neighbor suffer for all time, simply because of his religious belief system, is as evil as it gets.

And then Christians say that God does this, not because he is evil, but because He is so good! Do you see how this is a perversion of language and concept? We are keeping the word “good” and “holy” but stripping holy action and intention from the words. We are deciding to call what is yellow, red and what is up, down - simply to preserve the words so that we can sleep at night.

I thank you for your prayers, and I too pray for you. I pray that you will come to trust your personal sense of God, and your relationships with others, more than the words on the page. After all, the words on the page came from other people’s hearts and minds. Let’s evaluate them carefully and with courage in the light of the new freedom of love.

Let go of the written word a bit and trust God directly.

I think that is actually the central message of early Christianity.

Anonymous said...

@ Steven Stark

"I pray that you will come to trust your personal sense of God, and your relationships with others, more than the words on the page. After all, the words on the page came from other people’s hearts and minds. Let’s evaluate them carefully and with courage in the light of the new freedom of love.

Let go of the written word a bit and trust God directly.

I think that is actually the central message of early Christianity."

I love this! I have found all your comments very helpful and am so thankful that you have taken the time to express your thoughts here.

Heather

greg.w.h said...

As a reminder, the eternal fire itself wasn't prepared for humans:

Matthew 25:41-46 ESV (emphasis mine)
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

According to the Bible:

1. "Hell" isn't designed for people.

2. It is a place of punishment. But it also isn't necessary from the Bible to view it as a place where God is the source of punishment.

C.S. Lewis famously pointed out that each of us lives with the "Weight of Glory" upon us which includes both the eternity in our heart and a design for eternal existence after the first death. In sin we fell together with Adam and Eve and cannot of our own ability reverse that fall.

But in Christ Jesus we are restored--actually ELEVATED--to a better relationship no longer as mere creatures--made lower than the angels according to Psalms--but as sons & daughters of the Most High. To borrow Romans 5:7-8 ESV:

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!"

stevenstarkmusic said...

Thanks for your encouraging words, Heather!

I was a hard road for me - walking away from the terrible things I was taught about God and Christianity, and learning to have faith in God - the one here and now, today.

Ironically, I now love the Bible faaar more than ever, when you realize it is a very human book, it becomes truly incredible.

RRR said...

Steven and Heather,
I'm wondering what you use as a standard or a basis for what is “right or wrong”? Do you decide this based upon what you "feel" God would like? Do you decide it upon what another person that you like and respect tells you is “right or wrong”? Maybe you decide what you consider to be “right and wrong” by a book that you read yesterday that seems to make sense and is compatible with the way you’re feeling today and the way you think God feels about it.

Texas passed abortion laws today. Some say "That can’t be right! It imposes someone else’s beliefs upon others. God wouldn’t like that! My personal feelings are that He would think it was wrong!" Others say that "More restrictions on abortions are what God would want! The fetus is a living, human being inside the womb no matter how or when it got there! That must be what God thinks is right!!! His Spirit told me that directly!!!"

Why did you decide that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died for your sins, was born of a virgin, was resurrected or that the way to heaven is through belief in His being what you happen to believe He is? (I’m assuming you believe these things.) Why do you believe THOSE “parts” of the Bible? Did God tell you in direct communication that “these” are parts of The Bible that are not written by biased, confused writers who are writing based upon their world view or personal preference/interpretation of God’s voice? Why do you even believe there WAS a Jesus called the Christ??

When you receive The Bible as though it is written by men according to the worldview and culture and preferences of those writers at that time and NOT a direct inspiration of The Holy Spirit of Almighty God telling them what GOD says then you may as well write your own Bible. You have zero basis for your argument, your belief, your hope other than what you happen to feel like believing is the truth today. Who knows what you will believe 10 years from now.

Jesus Christ Himself believed The Bible! Do you have some kind of more direct access to God than Jesus??? That’s a scary thought for me.
Heather says she likes Steven's premises to "Let go of the written word a bit and trust God directly."
I'm asking you both; why not throw the Bible out completely? I suppose you like to keep it on the shelf along with the writings of Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Gandhi and Greek philosophers. If you do not accept it as the exclusive, inspired Word from God then you have “dumbed it down” to be on the same scale of guesswork, the author’s arrogance or humanist philosophy as are the others.

stevenstarkmusic said...

"A standard for right and wrong"

Very good question. I believe that we all use our ethical intuitions in partnership with our human reason to determine what is right and wrong. This is often called "natural law" in the Christian tradition.

I think we all use this. The alternative is to have no internal conscience and to simply depend on what another external source tells you is right and wrong.

Do you only rely on external authority? Don't you have a moral sense yourself?

We certainly disagree on many issues and we have to constantly stay in dialogue with each other as we try to determine what is right and wrong on "tricky" issues for our society. But I am an optimist and I believe that humans are slowly making moral progress on many issues - ridding ourselves of slavery, women's rights, children's rights, education, science, etc.

My problem is when Christians suspend their consciences and call something "right" simply because it is in the Bible. However in any other circumstance, they would call the same action wrong - such as when the Old Testament God commands genocide. Why is it OK when God (reportedly) does it but not when HItler does it? Luckily, these look to be mostly just stories anyway and not history, as there was not a singular Hebrew invasion of Canaan in archeological records. (BUt I haven't researched this stuff in a long time)


As far as which parts of the Bible to believe - I use the same standard for the BIble as I would for anything else. I believe it is a book written by humans, like anything else. It is special because it covers a millenium of history for a certain people, and it offers us tremendous insight into the moral evolution of humans. We see over the course of the Bible how ideas of what is right and wrong change dramatically.

The Bible certainly does not offer us a singular, objective morality.


"You have zero basis for your argument, your belief, your hope other than what you happen to feel like believing is the truth today."

But I think that you "feel like" believing the Bible is literally true (except for certain parts perhaps?). I don't think there is a strong basis for that belief.

And besides, and here is the central question:

Even if you do believe the Bible is literally true -

***What did you use to decide that?****

Surely the answer is - your own heart and mind.

So it makes little sense to criticize another for using his own heart and mind to evaluate things.

"I suppose you like to keep it on the shelf along with the writings of Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Gandhi and Greek philosophers."

Exactly.

But this doesn't "dumb down" the Bible. Rather it elevates everything else.

Myself, I do not believe Jesus was literally born of a virgin. I think he was a human man - that seems the most sound conclusion from the evidence. However anything is possible! There is always room for a reasonable leap of faith.


So my return question is - RRR, what did you use to decide that the Bible has special authority for you?

Thanks and have a great weekend, Steven

stevenstarkmusic said...

In my previous comment I should have said:

"Ridding ourselves of slavery, promoting the rights of women and children, etc."

RRR said...

Dear Steven,

Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts on these things. I believe it has helped me to better and more accurately understand your position.

You said, "So it makes little sense to criticize another for using his own heart and mind to evaluate things." I know it must sound like I am being critical or condescending at times and I apologize for that. It really wasn't my intent and I've enjoyed our dialogue and continue to respect your opinion and right to come to your own conclusions on these things.

As to why I depend upon The Bible as my standard and means to measure the truth of all things; it's because of its true history, the fulfillment of its prophecies, the immense amount of archaeological evidence that we do have to confirm so much of its historicity and because of the miracle of it being compiled with so many consistent, ageless truths written in various eras that consistently point to it being God's redemptive plan for mankind. No other book ever created comes close to the miracle of this one.

Also, as I study other religions and philosophies contrary to The Bible it solidifies my confidence that The Bible is far and away the more credible source. When I dialogue with people of all the other faiths I've encountered and listen to the basis of their beliefs it always seems to me that they are pitifully without basis for their positions other than the teachings, theories and man-created ideas. But I understand your disagreement with my position and that is totally okay in terms of our being friends and respecting each other.

I am not trying to convince you, simply explaining. Thanks again for the conversation.

stevenstarkmusic said...

RRR,

You were being critical, but that is fine! I too, am critical of your positions, but we are both respectful and having a great conversation!

So hopefully we agree that we both use our hearts and minds to evaluate reality, and then choose what we think is best.

I have studied the Bible extensively, and have come to different conclusions. I do not see prophecy fulfillment (I see many stories written later. I see the story of the passion of Jesus based by the writer on Psalms 22, the myth of Noah and his sons created to "explain" different races and peoples, etc. etc.). I do not see archeological evidence for many claims, but there is certainly archeological evidence for some parts.

And there is certainly no objective morality or consistent sense of God throughout. An anthropomorphized God walking through the garden or living on a mountain or "regretting" making Saul king or creating mankind.....a God who kills children, etc. - this is much different than the God represented by Jesus, who accepted the "other" instead of killing them.

I see a book written by theologians, mystics, ancient scribes and poets - not court reporters and documentarians operating according to the modern standard of "fact".

But I see an incredible showcase of the evolution of mankind's thoughts on morality and God. It may be the greatest book in human history.

"The Evolution of God" by Robert Reich is a spectacular work on why certain ancient writings gained traction and became canonized.

Best to you! Steven

Anonymous said...

Hello RRR,

Thank you for your concern. I will leave the conversation in Steven’s and your able hands but just want to give this very short reply.

I came to know God by seeking Him and finding Him through Jesus and my relationship with Him was established before I knew anything about the bible. I identified as a Buddhist at the time, but since then identify as a Christian.

Even though I have spent many years reading and studying the bible and grappling with many issues, the wonderful reality is that if I didn’t have the bible, I would still have a relationship with God.

Heather

RRR said...

Heather,

I just checked this blog post and was surprised to see that comments had continued to come in. I hope you check and see this response to your comment.

I wanted to tell you how happy I am that you found Christ and have entered into the Kingdom of God forever! I TOTALLY agree with your comment that people can enter into a saving relationship with God without ever seeing a Bible and sometimes without ever hearing the Gospel message proclaimed by another person.

I met a young BBB (Buddhist Background Believer) a few months ago and asked her to share how she had come to know Christ and accept Him as her God and given Him control of her life. She told me that JESUS HAD APPEARED TO HER in person! She insisted it was not a dream or vision but He actually appeared in the room with her. I asked her what He said. She said He didn't say anything. I asked her how she knew it was Jesus. She said that she didn't understand until later who it was or what His name was but that she knew that she wanted to give her life to Him and for Him to be her God. Before that encounter she was a staunch Buddhist, went to the temple regularly to make merit, meditate and seek answers that she never got. She never found peace at the Buddhist temple that lasted. Her house was full of Buddhist images, she had a spirit house outside for the resident spirit and she wore all kinds of amulets and charms to protect her from the spiritual realm which she feared.

After her encounter with Jesus she immediately threw everything out of her house that was an image or altar. She threw away the spirit house, the charms and the amulets. Then she began to search for someone who could help her know more about this amazing man-God that she had met and decided to follow. Her story reminded me of the blind man in John Chapter 9 before he met Jesus the second time after receiving his sight.

This young lady found a church and knew immediately that Jesus was the name of the man-God who had visited her in her home. Since that time, 4 years ago, she has faithfully served God and grown in her relationship and feeds on God's Word like she is starving to death and can't get enough.

She's not the first that I have heard with similar testimonies so believe me when I say that I do not doubt your testimony for a minute and praise God for loving you so much that He led you to know that life with Him is the best life we can have. It's why we were created.

He is indeed a “living” God who reveals Himself to us in many ways.

I sure hope and pray that Steven can find Him too.

RRR said...

Heather,
I wanted to tell you how happy I am that you found Christ and have entered into the Kingdom of God forever! I TOTALLY agree with your comment that people can enter into a saving relationship with God without ever seeing a Bible and sometimes without ever hearing the Gospel message proclaimed by another person.

I met a young BBB (Buddhist Background Believer) a few months ago and asked her to share how she had come to know Christ and accept Him as her God and given Him control of her life. She told me that JESUS HAD APPEARED TO HER in person!
After her encounter with Jesus she immediately threw everything out of her house that was an image or altar. She threw away the spirit house, the charms and the amulets. Then she began to search for someone who could help her know more about this amazing man-God that she had met and decided to follow. This young lady found a church and knew immediately that Jesus was the name of the man-God who had visited her in her home. Since that time, 4 years ago, she has faithfully served God and grown in her relationship and feeds on God's Word like she is starving to death and can't get enough.
I praise God for loving you so much that He led you to know that life with Him is the best life we can have. He is indeed a “living” God who reveals Himself to us in many ways.

RRR said...

Heather,
I wanted to tell you how happy I am that you found Christ and have entered into the Kingdom of God forever! I’m not sure the post will allow me to respond at this late date.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply RRR.

I adopted the philosophy of non-theistic Buddhism as a way of life so wasn't into the same practices as your young BBB friend.

Like Steven, I too have walked away from some "terrible things that are believed about God and Christianity".

I was steeped in Calvinistic doctrine for many years but have journeyed to a place where I now embrace a wider hope.

Heather


Steven Stark said...

"I now embrace a wider hope."

Thanks for that, Heather.

Gary said...

Imagine what would happen if the authorities found out that cult leaders and the parents in that cult were telling their children that if the children did not obey the rules of the cult, they would be tossed into a boiling pot of liquid fire.

The leaders of the cult and the parents would most likely be put in jail.

So if conservative Christian clergy and parents threaten their little children with claims that an invisible ghost god is going to burn them alive if they do not obey the church's rules, should these clergy and parents be subjected to the same punishment as the leaders and parents of the cult?

Should the teaching of Hellfire and damnation to children be a crime?