Why I Rejected Christianity Review: Hell Part 1

This is a difficult topic to write about. It’s not because it’s a hard argument to defend rationally. I don’t think it is. It’s because there is such an emotional argument. I think Dwight L. Moody once said that you’d better not preach about Hell unless there are tears in your eyes. I also recall the day Saddam’s sons were killed and someone IMed me on PALtalk and was telling me about it and said it was such good news. My thought I told them was “It’s good that the terror they brought is at an end, but it’s sad because they’ve entered an eternity with no hope.”

That’s really my view. I don’t believe in Hell because I like it. I don’t. I believe in Hell simply because I believe the Bible teaches it and then of course, my Lord teaches it, and if I believe that they teach it, then I, as a Christian, am obligated to agree. I believe it’s just and I believe it’s proper. It does not mean I enjoy the thought of it. Still, I will defend the doctrine. We start by the three options Loftus gives us on Hell.

I will agree with the first view. Hell is not described literally any more than Heaven is described literally. I believe the fires and the worms described indicate a greater reality. They indicate the judgment of God. The remains of sacrifices would be eaten up by worms and the garbage of Jerusalem would be burned at Gehenna, which is where we get our word for Hell.

Hell is a cosmic dump basically. It’s where humans go when they cease to fulfill their potential. It is where God ultimately leaves people alone granting them their wish. C.S. Lewis was one of the best writers on this topic and I highly recommend people read The Great Divorce and the Hell chapter in the Problem of Pain. (For contrast of course, read the Heaven chapter as well. Peter Kreeft’s book of “Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing” is the best book I have ever read on Heaven.)

What about Annihilationism? I don’t believe that simply because I do not see my Lord teaching it. I see Hell in the Bible consistently as conscious punishment. Is language of destruction used? Yes. That language though more refers to ruin than the cessation of existence.

I also believe God is a respecter of the free choices of man and those who hold his image. He will let them live with the choice that they have made rather than destroy that which is good, which is his image. I see passages where the duration of Heaven and Hell are placed alongside each other and both are seen as unending. I also see people described as gnashing teeth in Hell, a picture of great sorrow, indicating consciousness. (For the record, I do not see the parable of the rich man and Lazarus as giving us the furniture of the afterlife but contrasting the view that rich people have the blessing of God and the poor have the curse of God.)

Lastly, there is Loftus’s view that it doesn’t exist. It developed among superstitious and barbaric people.

Now was the idea of Hell developed rather late in biblical chronology? Yes it was. I believe though there are shades of it, but there was never a need to expound nor really a place to do so. The message was simply on getting Israel back on track in the now and not on track for what was to be in the future aside from the coming of the Messiah.

Of course, readers know the real argument will be on the emotional appeal and how this is unjust. We shall look at that tomorrow.

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