Rossweisse
RIP Rossweisse, HellHost and long-time Shipmate.
Please see the thread in All Saints remembering her.

Current Christian understandings of hell

I've just finished A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck. As the Amazon blurb has it:
An ordinary family man, geologist, and Mormon, Soren Johansson has always believed he’ll be reunited with his loved ones after death in an eternal hereafter. Then, he dies. Soren wakes to find himself cast by a God he has never heard of into a Hell whose dimensions he can barely grasp: a vast library he can only escape from by finding the book that contains the story of his life.

Warning: this is not a book for the faint-hearted or those freaked out by thinking about large numbers, especially in respect of eternity. But I found it a very thought-provoking read (if enough people here have read it, it would make for a great and wide-ranging All Saints discussion).

My particular aim here, though, on the back of this book, is to explore current Christian understandings of hell.

By Christian, I mean understandings that make some attempt to engage with what the Bible says about hell (recognising that views differ over this).

What are the views of Shipmates identifying as Christians about hell? Eternal conscious torment? An eternal place, but not necessarily one stays in eternally (c.f. purgatory?). Heaven as experienced by non-believers? What is its purpose? How is your view reflected in Scripture?


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Comments

  • I think it is a state of being defined by being out-of-joint with regards to God (and thus, with regards to the rest of life and reality). And that naturally hurts like... never mind. I think people send themselves there, if they do so--God has gone to outrageous lengths to prevent anybody winding up there, up to and including his own death. Unfortunately, hell is one logical outworking of a cosmos in which God has created beings with free will and refuses to take that gift back from them. As I'm discovering with my newly-adult son away at school, you can't say "Do it your way" and then be surprised when "his way" involves things I would never do.
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    Eternal, @Lamb Chopped? Why/why not?
  • Eternal, yes, I'm sorry to say. (If it weren't eternal, it'd be Purgatory, because a change in the person occurs. I'm good with that, by the way--anybody who wants to assume such a thing, no probs.)

    But I can't rule out eternal hell, first on Jesus' word (Matthew 25 has one case). Second, because I think it's possible for someone to scrunch themselves into an increasingly smaller and more cramped refusal of God. We see a small reflection of this in this life, when someone decides to pout and refuses any effort at reconciliation--indeed, every attempt at reconciliation seems to harden them further.

    In the early days of this sort of thing, it is possible for the person to repent--or simply get tired--uncramp themselves, and come out of their pout and rejoin the human race. But for those who don't, it becomes habitual. New events bring added outrage and stronger refusal, deeper cramping inward on the self. The person would rather be miserable than be happy, if being happy involves the least amount of "you were right" or even "you were wrong but I forgive you." If it involves giving up a grievance. In fact, staying miserable becomes a way of punishing others around him/her. And the longer this goes on, the more difficult it is to escape--the stronger the habit of being miserable--the deeper the lies, the stronger the pride, the more deeply engrained the refusal.

    I think most people have seen this process at work in real life. It produces people it is impossible to help, because every effort to help becomes fresh fuel for the fire. In the end such people become isolated (having driven everyone away), all the while blaming everybody else for their situation. And still they cramp further inward.

    (I've been using pride and anger for this example, but you could probably duplicate it with any life-engulfing sin.)

    If I may dare the comparison, look at the current occupant of the White House, and consider the progress (?) he has made in cramping and isolating himself, just over four years. He started with a crew of scoundrels, but at least some of them had some regard for him--a poor excuse for friendship and loyalty, but something still. Think of him now. Where are his former "friends"? How many people has he driven away? Has anyone replaced those people for him? And yet, given his pride and refusal to bend no matter what, what would you give for his chances of establishing the least real friendship with somebody during the rest of his life?

    Now, of course God can do miracles, and I pray for this one. But such people retain their free will--including the freedom to reject God's efforts. And if they keep exercising it to refuse every way out God offers them, all the while continuing to deteriorate in mind and soul--

    I think there does come a point where the person has refused so many times that he basically becomes a refusal. He "sets" that way. Much like our parents told us, "If you keep making that face it will freeze like that!" There's some truth to the idea that whatever you do again and again and again, you eventually become. And depending on what that is, you may have heaven or you may have hell.

    So God's sentencing of people to hell is not a case of jettisoning people who, if they'd just been given a bit more time and help, could have been salvaged. It is his recognition of the fact that certain people (please God, may this be as few as possible!) have willingly, willfully placed themselves beyond any sort of help that exists--that they have passed a point of no return--that the only thing to be done with them now is to put them where they can do no more harm to anybody else.


  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Eternal life is certainly a feature of Christianity. For Christians there a eternal life with God. That suggests the idea of eternal life without God, this is the most popular definition of Hell I have come across. A lot of tradition has grown up around Hell and the Devil which has gotten mixed up with actual theology. Of course there The Rich Man and Lazerus that indicate a hell where fires burn and thirst cannot be quenched. That also suggests there is no purgatory (as you mentioned it) because there is gulf between Heaven and Hell.
  • Hugal wrote: »
    Eternal life is certainly a feature of Christianity. For Christians there a eternal life with God. That suggests the idea of eternal life without God, this is the most popular definition of Hell I have come across. A lot of tradition has grown up around Hell and the Devil which has gotten mixed up with actual theology. .

    On the other hand, towards the end of Revelation; Hell/Hades is thrown into the lake of fire - given that it has already given up its dead at that point is the purpose to destroy it ? Does the lake have a dual purpose of some kind?
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    Eternal life is certainly a feature of Christianity. For Christians there a eternal life with God. That suggests the idea of eternal life without God, this is the most popular definition of Hell I have come across. A lot of tradition has grown up around Hell and the Devil which has gotten mixed up with actual theology. .

    On the other hand, towards the end of Revelation; Hell/Hades is thrown into the lake of fire - given that it has already given up its dead at that point is the purpose to destroy it ? Does the lake have a dual purpose of some kind?

    That depends on how metaphorical you think Revelation is. Is it a guide to the end times or is it for it’s time? Revelation is not meant to he totally understood.
  • The Orthodox Church has no official teaching on what the afterlife is like for the unsaved (or whatever the right word is), but the most "popular" view is called the River of Fire. The idea here is that God's Energies (think of the light at the Transfiguration and you won't be too far off) radiate from God, and are muted in this world, but in the next will be experienced full-blast. To those who love God this will be felt as light and life and love and all that, whereas for those who do not love God it will be felt as painful fire, like a river of fire flowing from God, in which one is in horrible pain.

    Many Orthodox also believe in salvation after death (it was very popular in the early days of the church but fell out of favor, but again there is no official teaching against it).
  • Hugal wrote: »
    Hugal wrote: »
    Eternal life is certainly a feature of Christianity. For Christians there a eternal life with God. That suggests the idea of eternal life without God, this is the most popular definition of Hell I have come across. A lot of tradition has grown up around Hell and the Devil which has gotten mixed up with actual theology. .

    On the other hand, towards the end of Revelation; Hell/Hades is thrown into the lake of fire - given that it has already given up its dead at that point is the purpose to destroy it ? Does the lake have a dual purpose of some kind?

    That depends on how metaphorical you think Revelation is. Is it a guide to the end times or is it for it’s time? Revelation is not meant to he totally understood.

    I'm not wedded to any particular literalistic reading of Revelation -- just pointing out that those who want to claim that the punishment is not eternal can also find a reading that fits their views (be it purgatorial of some kind where Hell is eventually emptied out or some form of Annhilationism).
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    edited October 12
    @Hugal I don't think the story of the rich man and Lazarus explicitly references Hell. I also note that the rich man wanted to stay right where he was...

    @Lamb Chopped one of the things A Short Stay in Hell does, very effectively for a short novella, is get the reader thinking about what really long durations are like. The periods mentioned in the book stretch into the eons (the central character spends more light-years falling down a chasm at terminal velocity than there are atoms in the universe, and that's only part of his story...), and that's in a finite (but very large) Hell.

    I used to think Jonathan Edwards had a good argument that punishment in Hell could justly be eternal because sin against an infinite God was correspondingly infinite in magnitude, but I'm having an increasingly hard time with this once I start to really think about eternity.

    @mousethief I have some time for the idea that "one man's heaven is another man's hell", with much indebtedness to CS Lewis, but I find myself struggling with that being eternal, unless there's a potential way out (as in Lewis' The Great Divorce. Do the Orthodox think residency in Hell is eternal?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Hmmm. All very Biblicist and/or blaming us for our eternal fate based on how we chose to be in this life. No advance on having your soul weighed against Ma'at's ostrich feather.

    Jesus saves.
  • HarryCHHarryCH Shipmate
    I sometimes think of Hell is a rather intellectual fashion: Hell is separation from the love of God. God will not initiate the separation, but some humans do so. Thus one can still be alive and yet be in Hell.

    I think of Purgatory as a hospital for injured souls.
  • It always struck me as weird the evangelical focus both on particular judgment after death AND the ultimate judgment of the Lake of Fire at the end of days. Why would souls who suffer in hell, after millenna be trotted out at the last days with their bodies only to receive the same guilty verdict and the same punishment of torment in the Lake of Fire?

    The answer usually given is now at the last days with the resurrection of the body, the bodies of the wicked are tormented as well as their souls. My response is that it borders on making God like a judgmental ogre.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Borders on?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    How can almighty God be so ineffectual? And round shouldered?
  • Those who really 'get' John 3:16 should be like 'beggars showing other beggars where bread can be found ' and stick to preaching that gospel that has captivated them into the adoption as sons/daughters. Hell/hades is not clear enough in the scriptures to be the subject of preaching and can be left to mean whatever the Holy Spirit may impress upon an individual in private. And that may even change as we continue on our Pilgrim journey.
  • edited October 12
    I'm a ghastly mix of heretic and Christian, holding all sorts of heterodox views among the lawn clippings in my brains, as will be known from my denial of miracles, leaving questions to the agnostic "I don't know, I cannot know", though contradicting myself by continuing to self-label as Christian. Not sure if I'm the target of your question. But FWIW any who, hell is annihilation to my mind. When it comes to this, all I've got is poetry, some of it biblical:

    The fire of God is fallen from heaven and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. (Job 1:16) Much like the existential philosophy statement about the other end of life: that we're all product of a biological accident, where one egg joined with one of hundreds of millions of sperms. (We could also talk of infinite improbability drive, 42, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe)


    I'd also answer with the Wisdom of Solomon (apocrypha): For the ungodly said, reasoning with themselves, but not aright, Our life is short and tedious, and in the death of a man there is no remedy: neither was there any man known to have returned from the grave. For we are born at all adventure: and we shall be hereafter as though we had never been: for the breath in our nostrils is as smoke, and a little spark in the moving of our heart: 3 Which being extinguished, our body shall be turned into ashes, and our spirit shall vanish as the soft air, And our name shall be forgotten in time, and no man shall have our works in remembrance, and our life shall pass away as the trace of a cloud, and shall be dispersed as a mist, that is driven away with the beams of the sun, and overcome with the heat thereof. (Wis. 2:1-9)


    I could venture non-biblical as well, which says much the same things, for example into the Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam
    And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd—
    "I came like Water, and like Wind I go.".

    Into this Universe, and why not knowing,
    Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing:Big Bang Burger Quest
    And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
    I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.
    (XXVIII-XXVIX)


    So that's it then. Hell is being done and becoming vapour which dissipates, and is gone.
  • I think some of the problem may lie with our conceptions of time in the afterlife/after Judgment. There doesn't seem to be an emphasis on duration anywhere, but instead on finality. The final verdict is spoken, the paperwork is stamped with a thump, and that's it. Even the references that could be taken as duration ("shall go into everlasting punishment") can be taken this way. There is no dwelling on the "endless" thing, no fruity descriptions, and so forth.

    If I'm right, we're having some of our problems because we conceive of heaven and hell as being, well, basically parallel timelines, going on just as our earthly life does, either at the same time or as a follow up or both. And then we imagine that a limited crime gets unlimited punishment, rather as if someone held up a gas station and then got (endless) life in prison.

    But if heaven and hell are really related to us, not as a line to a line, but as a sphere to a line... well, then, the idea that you can somehow do accounting across the states (life and afterlife) goes away. At least for me. Because suddenly we aren't in a "tit for tat" model anymore, but rather in a "seed produces adult form" situation, or "foundation laid on earth affects the completed 4 D building" in unexpected ways.
  • Eutychus wrote: »
    @mousethief I have some time for the idea that "one man's heaven is another man's hell", with much indebtedness to CS Lewis, but I find myself struggling with that being eternal, unless there's a potential way out (as in Lewis' The Great Divorce. Do the Orthodox think residency in Hell is eternal?

    I think I answered that in my post.
  • Dave WDave W Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    I used to think Jonathan Edwards had a good argument that punishment in Hell could justly be eternal because sin against an infinite God was correspondingly infinite in magnitude, but I'm having an increasingly hard time with this once I start to really think about eternity.
    You’d think an infinite God could maybe grow a little thicker skin.
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    edited October 12
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Hmmm. All very Biblicist

    If your understanding of Hell, or an absence thereof, isn't based on the Bible, what is it based on?
    It always struck me as weird the evangelical focus both on particular judgment after death AND the ultimate judgment of the Lake of Fire at the end of days. Why would souls who suffer in hell, after millenna be trotted out at the last days with their bodies only to receive the same guilty verdict and the same punishment of torment in the Lake of Fire?
    Which evangelicals are these, please? Can you quote any evangelical sources asserting that souls suffer in hell in disembodied form before getting a resurrected body to be further tormented? And what is your (presumably non-weird) take on those bits of the Bible that do mention some kind of afterlife that isn't 'with the Lord'?
    Merry Vole wrote: »
    Those who really 'get' John 3:16 should be like 'beggars showing other beggars where bread can be found ' and stick to preaching that gospel that has captivated them into the adoption as sons/daughters.
    I won't presume in this company to "get" John 3:16, but I'd like to know what you think "perish" means in that verse, or what "condemnation" you think John thought the Son had come into the world to save us from.

    @NOprophet_NØprofit Job certainly doesn't seem to envisage much afterlife, witness the fact he got twice as many children after his trials ended (suggesting he would not be reunited with them in the hereafter), but the NT doesn't seem to have quite the same take.

    @mousethief it's not clear to me from your post whether you think the pain of the fire of God's presence is experienced eternally or not.

    @Lamb Chopped I'm not convinced side-stepping the "duration" aspect does away with the problem. If the judgement is final rather than endless, does that leave room for annihilationalism? If the judged are not annihilated, whether or not time progresses as on earth is a bit academic, isn't it?
    Dave W wrote: »
    Eutychus wrote: »
    I used to think Jonathan Edwards had a good argument that punishment in Hell could justly be eternal because sin against an infinite God was correspondingly infinite in magnitude, but I'm having an increasingly hard time with this once I start to really think about eternity.
    You’d think an infinite God could maybe grow a little thicker skin.
    If one assumes true justice is an ideal worth aspiring to, do you think it is best served by the judge growing a thicker skin?

    It seems to me that the people who get the angriest with the idea of God meting out justice are often the first in line to want to mete some out themselves.
  • Even the references that could be taken as duration ("shall go into everlasting punishment") can be taken this way.
    I’ve said it before round here, but ‘everlasting’ is a shonky translation of aionion. With eternal life and eternal punishment, the ‘eternal’ bit really has little to do with outlining any length of time at all, finite or infinite. And given that the punishment bit (kolasis) is by definition a disciplinary chastisement, ISTM that the only reasonable way to interpret that particular verse is that ‘everlasting punishment’ is an unspecified time of correction, to get those goats’ priorities straight.

    In short, I see Hell as entirely purgatorial, because any other view makes its existence vindictive and vengeful, and for me, that would be out of character with God as I understand her.
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    With eternal life and eternal punishment, the ‘eternal’ bit really has little to do with outlining any length of time at all, finite or infinite.
    Can you explain (again?) what it does have to do with then?
    In short, I see Hell as entirely purgatorial, because any other view makes its existence vindictive and vengeful, and for me, that would be out of character with God as I understand her.
    I'd like to incline to that view, but A Short Stay in Hell makes quite a compelling case for even a purgatorial Hell being too Hellish for comfort.

  • Eutychus wrote: »
    @mousethief it's not clear to me from your post whether you think the pain of the fire of God's presence is experienced eternally or not.
    mousethief wrote: »
    Many Orthodox also believe in salvation after death

  • Eutychus wrote: »
    It always struck me as weird the evangelical focus both on particular judgment after death AND the ultimate judgment of the Lake of Fire at the end of days. Why would souls who suffer in hell, after millenna be trotted out at the last days with their bodies only to receive the same guilty verdict and the same punishment of torment in the Lake of Fire?
    Which evangelicals are these, please? Can you quote any evangelical sources asserting that souls suffer in hell in disembodied form before getting a resurrected body to be further tormented?

    To be fair about it, Dante appears to hold something like this point of view. It comes up in reference to the circle of hell holding the suicides.
    Eutychus wrote: »
    @NOprophet_NØprofit Job certainly doesn't seem to envisage much afterlife, witness the fact he got twice as many children after his trials ended (suggesting he would not be reunited with them in the hereafter), but the NT doesn't seem to have quite the same take.

    Actually, he got exactly the same number of children. I noticed this because of what you say--it does in fact imply that his first set of children are still in existence, with both sets (living and dead) making up the full double portion.
    Eutychus wrote: »
    @Lamb Chopped I'm not convinced side-stepping the "duration" aspect does away with the problem. If the judgement is final rather than endless, does that leave room for annihilationalism? If the judged are not annihilated, whether or not time progresses as on earth is a bit academic, isn't it?

    I'm not sure you got my point--doubtless my failure to communicate. I was addressing the common objection that goes like this: "I lived and sinned for only 70 years, so why should I get endless years of punishment?" If time/space is not in fact exactly the same experience before and after death, this objection becomes ... well, meaningless. And when we go to the texts for evidence of either model, we find nothing that binds us to a linear time scheme of the sort the objection presupposes. That was all I meant to say.

    As for the "final" thing-- A judgement can be final because it annihilates, or it can be final merely because it is irreversible. We don't have enough evidence to decide in favor of annihilationism, attractive as it is. Words such as "perish" and "destroy" are not sufficient, because in our human experience (in which our languages are rooted), we do not in fact have experience of annihilation. Destruction has an "after" to it--a state we call "ruin." Or as Lewis put it, "Mightn't there be a state of having-been-a-man?" Like the ashes left after a log is consumed. The log is changed, but not annihilated. Which is a pretty horrific thing to contemplate vis-a-vis people.

  • Jolly JapeJolly Jape Shipmate Posts: 7
    If one assumes true justice is an ideal worth aspiring to, do you think it is best served by the judge growing a thicker skin?

    It seems to me that the people who get the angriest with the idea of God meting out justice are often the first in line to want to mete some out themselves.


    That depends somewhat whether you believe that the Biblical understanding of justice is retributive or restorative. If we believe that restoration is at the heart of the Kingdom of God, that, in some way, through the Paschal event, wrong is undone, that He will "restore the years that the locust has taken" then there is no conflict between aspiring wholeheartedly to justice and exercising the greatest zeal towards mercy. They are inextricably linked, such that the one cannot exist outwith the presence of the other. To me, this is the encapsulation of the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • goperryrevsgoperryrevs Shipmate
    edited October 12
    Eutychus wrote: »
    With eternal life and eternal punishment, the ‘eternal’ bit really has little to do with outlining any length of time at all, finite or infinite.
    Can you explain (again?) what it does have to do with then?

    Sure. One useful way to think of it is in terms of the Jewish concept of Olam Ha-Ba (the world/age to come). Also Jesus’ phrases “The Kingdom of God” and “The Kingdom of Heaven”. Bear in mind that we get our word ‘aeon’ from aion.

    As far as I understand it, the worldview Jesus was speaking into looked forward to the ‘Messianic Age’, a time when things would be set right, the Son of David would rule over Jerusalem and the Kingdom of God would be established. This was neither as straightforward as looking forward to an afterlife, nor looking forward to a future time in history. It was both/and. A new Eden; an establishing of the way things should be; a yearning for justice.

    When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he should do to inherit “Eternal Life”, he wasn't asking how he could live for an infinite time in Heaven. He was asking how he could be a part of this Age to Come. He wanted to be part of Olam Ha-Ba, or The Kingdom of God, or The New Eden, or the Age to Come.

    So it’s not that Eternal Life isn’t necessarily infinite. It’s just that infinity isn’t the focus. The focus is qualitative, not quantitive. Aionios is not describing an amount of time that Zoe (life) happens for. Zoen Aionion is telling us there is an Age that can be and will one day be, and that that Age looks like Life. Life in all its fullness / Life as it was always mean to be lived.

    Hope that helps - tried to pile the imagery in, as it’s not pithily summed up. Essentially, everything you could describe about what the Kingdom of God is: that’s Eternal Life.
  • Dave WDave W Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    Dave W wrote: »
    Eutychus wrote: »
    I used to think Jonathan Edwards had a good argument that punishment in Hell could justly be eternal because sin against an infinite God was correspondingly infinite in magnitude, but I'm having an increasingly hard time with this once I start to really think about eternity.
    You’d think an infinite God could maybe grow a little thicker skin.
    If one assumes true justice is an ideal worth aspiring to, do you think it is best served by the judge growing a thicker skin?
    If the judge thinks infinite punishment is deserved because he's infinite, yes I do.
    It seems to me that the people who get the angriest with the idea of God meting out justice are often the first in line to want to mete some out themselves.
    Really? It seems quite the opposite to me - lots of people enthusiastic about God smiting the sinners, and more than willing to point them out and join in.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    I recommend reading Rob Bell's Love Wins.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited October 13
    Dave W wrote: »
    Eutychus wrote: »
    It seems to me that the people who get the angriest with the idea of God meting out justice are often the first in line to want to mete some out themselves.
    Really? It seems quite the opposite to me - lots of people enthusiastic about God smiting the sinners, and more than willing to point them out and join in.

    I'm with Dave W. here. If you look at who writes hateful things to gay people or death threats to women gamers or whatever, the people who believe in a judgmental god are far more numerous than universalists. So much so it's not funny.
  • Although despite being a Universalist of sorts, I yearn for God’s Judgment. In my atheist/agnostic moments the thing that depresses me is the idea of that Judgement never happening.

    Except that my picture of said Judgement isn’t about condemning gays and Muslims or whatever - it’s about corrupt politicians being made accountable, the wrongfully convicted and executed being exonerated, victims of all kinds being heard and receiving justice, persecuted minorities being given dignity, perpetrators facing up to their actions, and so on. The darkness being brought into the light. All the wrongs finally getting put right.

    I guess we all have a similar instinct within us - for those @Dave W mentioned, the objects of their ire are gays, women, Muslims and so on. For you or me, the objects are Trump or Johnson and so on. I guess the question is whose anger is truly righteous.
  • Gramps49 wrote: »
    I recommend reading Rob Bell's Love Wins.

    ... with an open mind accepting that Rob Bell, like al of us, is wrong in parts. But, which parts?
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Jolly Jape That depends somewhat whether you believe that the Biblical understanding of justice is retributive or restorative.

    goperryrevsAlthough despite being a Universalist of sorts, I yearn for God’s Judgment. In my atheist/agnostic moments the thing that depresses me is the idea of that Judgement never happening.

    Of course, both retributive and restorative justice are to be found in the bible, and God's judgement is critical for the realisation of either.
    My way into questions of justice, judgement, and consequent sentence is to come at it through the image of Christ as the physician. In this context judgement is a diagnosis which forces individuals and society to confront major problems in the human condition that need to be addressed, but is made with the intention of effecting cure, which probably involves major surgery, rather than eternal damnation, of offering the possibility of personal and social restoration. Truly did Isaac Watts write; "Where he displays his healing power/ Death and the curse are known no more;/ In him the tribes of Adam boast/More blessings than their father lost/. (I trust I haven't opened a discussion on the fall, but at least note "more blessings than their father lost"!)



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  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Hmmm. All very Biblicist

    If your understanding of Hell, or an absence thereof, isn't based on the Bible, what is it based on?

    Epistemology? Epistemology that does not start with using the Bible to interpret the Bible with a literal, historical-grammatical approach, that it is inspired in any meaningful way? That any of its contributors knew anything at all about Hell? That any of the stories we made up about afterlife and that we started writing down five thousand years ago which are remarkably globally, psychologically, socially evolutionarily, deconstructedly and therefore genetically similar and haven't evolved significantly at all since, have any bearing at all on God as He is?
  • @goperryrevs Thank you for your contributions which I am finding helpful in putting what I have sometimes tried to say into better words!

    Tangent: when I had my first child, the book I was reading at the time was David Wenham's "Facing Hell" which was an evangelical look at the question with a touch of compassion - if I remember rightly. However, I don't remember the book very well at all - not surprising giving what was going on in my life - but the hospital pictures of me and beloved daughter have the book there in the background, title well displayed, as a commentary of the trauma of her birth, perhaps!
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    I recommend reading Rob Bell's Love Wins.

    ... with an open mind accepting that Rob Bell, like al of us, is wrong in parts. But, which parts?

    None significant to an open mind.
  • Kwesi wrote: »
    Of course, both retributive and restorative justice are to be found in the bible, and God's judgement is critical for the realisation of either.

    Yes, but I would argue that the final Christian revelation (or the trajectory of progressive theology) is that God's punishments are only ever restorative, never retributive, despite the presence (mostly in the Old Testament) or apparent divine retribution. Very early on in Christian history Clement of Alexandria wrote extensively about this, and is very explicit in the distinction between corrections and 'vindictive' punishments, saying that God only does the former. He also says that God saves all: some through love, some through correction - which has strong connections to the sheep/goats parable that @Lamb Chopped mentioned earlier - i.e. God is saving both the sheep and the goats, but in different ways.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    And we're all hybrids to one degree or another.
  • Defos
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 13
    : ) and no matter how torturously experience, that we never meaningfully choose, plays out on our very hard wiring, none of our tunes deserve incidental torture let alone damnation or oblivion.
  • AnteaterAnteater Shipmate
    The question was: What is the majority view in the contemporary church? Amongst liberals, it is likely to be universalism (i.e. hell becomes purgatory which is to be avoided but not a final sentence), or disbelief in any life after death. That's me, as of now, though I am doubting the cogency of liberal christianity more and more.

    The traditional view involved the following underlying beliefs:
    1. Annihilation is impossible, as we all have inherent immortality.
    2. The punishment of Hell is retributive, to satisfy God anger, and never leads to any exit from hell.
    3. All who do not accept the Christian Gospel will go there.

    That would still be the position of con-evos and conservative RCs (although they make more of the idea of invincible ignorance). But not, from what I have heard, of the average Christian in the pew.

    Annihilationism is growing, and is certainly an option in the CofE, accepted by many otherwise orthodox evos, like John Stott who was a major factor in promoting it.

    The prerequisite for going to Hell has changed a lot. For many hell is real but you really have to be dumb or psychotic to get there. Certainly anybody with any plausible claim to faith gets to heaven, as do most within other faiths. For those who have not heard the gospel, there is a plan-B of which I've heard several versions. E.g. that at the moment of death, they all get a gospel message from God, and are invited to accept. Which probably beats any currently available means of evangelism for its impact, so we needn't bother. Unless you believe you can present the Gospel better that The Lord. This approach is just plain daft to me, so I probably have not presented it well.

    Then a lot of people reject the retributive aspect of punishment, and accept that there is a route from heaven to hell, which seems to be the view of CSL in "The great divorce". This is usually called theoretical universalism, as is does not rule out the idea that hell has sufficient recompense that some will indeed prefer it forever, as in Milton's idea that Satan would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.


  • Jolly JapeJolly Jape Shipmate Posts: 7
    In fairness, Anteater, I think that a fair number of people who are theologically, if not socially, conservative, adopt a basically universalist position, so I'm not convinced it is confined only to (theological) liberals. It was, after all, the view held by the majority of the major teaching centres in the early church, and, arguably, St Paul, so its provenance is solid. Even the controversial Origen was not condemned for his vocal support of universalism, though there were plenty of other perceived heresies which attracted the attention of his critics.
  • Jolly JapeJolly Jape Shipmate Posts: 7
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Of course, both retributive and restorative justice are to be found in the bible, and God's judgement is critical for the realisation of either.

    Yes, but I would argue that the final Christian revelation (or the trajectory of progressive theology) is that God's punishments are only ever restorative, never retributive, despite the presence (mostly in the Old Testament) or apparent divine retribution. Very early on in Christian history Clement of Alexandria wrote extensively about this, and is very explicit in the distinction between corrections and 'vindictive' punishments, saying that God only does the former. He also says that God saves all: some through love, some through correction - which has strong connections to the sheep/goats parable that @Lamb Chopped mentioned earlier - i.e. God is saving both the sheep and the goats, but in different ways.

    This
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    edited October 13
    To be fair about it, Dante appears to hold something like this point of view. It comes up in reference to the circle of hell holding the suicides.
    He may well have, but I don't believe @Anglican Brat's caricature is a well-represented evangelical view. Eternal conscious punishment is, but not a disembodied stage followed by an incarnate one. Unless (s)he can show me otherwise.
    Eutychus wrote: »
    @NOprophet_NØprofit Job certainly doesn't seem to envisage much afterlife, witness the fact he got twice as many children after his trials ended (suggesting he would not be reunited with them in the hereafter), but the NT doesn't seem to have quite the same take.

    Actually, he got exactly the same number of children. I noticed this because of what you say--it does in fact imply that his first set of children are still in existence, with both sets (living and dead) making up the full double portion.
    You're absolutely right. Blame posting late at night.
    Eutychus wrote: »
    @Lamb Chopped I'm not convinced side-stepping the "duration" aspect does away with the problem. If the judgement is final rather than endless, does that leave room for annihilationalism? If the judged are not annihilated, whether or not time progresses as on earth is a bit academic, isn't it?

    @Lamb Chopped and others: if the judgement is "final", then I can make an annihilationist outcome work, but I can't see the purpose of a permanent awareness of that final judgement on the part of the recipient, whether it's "eternal" or not. The only purpose I can see of an enduring awareness of that judgement is the scope for a different outcome later (Purgatory).
    as Lewis put it, "Mightn't there be a state of having-been-a-man?" Like the ashes left after a log is consumed. The log is changed, but not annihilated. Which is a pretty horrific thing to contemplate vis-a-vis people.
    As I recall, The Great Divorce includes annihilation as an outcome for at least one day tripper from Hell. Again, what is the purpose of "having-been-a-man"?

    @Jolly Jape you are right that the idea of restorative justice runs into problems with any form of Hell that isn't ultimately purgatorial (at least potentially). And @goperryrevs echoes the tension we may feel between the yearning for restorative justice and some good old-fashioned retributive justice for our pet hates - thanks for the explanation of "eternal" by the way.
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Epistemology? Epistemology that does not start with using the Bible to interpret the Bible with a literal, historical-grammatical approach, that it is inspired in any meaningful way? That any of its contributors knew anything at all about Hell? That any of the stories we made up about afterlife and that we started writing down five thousand years ago which are remarkably globally, psychologically, socially evolutionarily, deconstructedly and therefore genetically similar and haven't evolved significantly at all since, have any bearing at all on God as He is?

    @Martin54 if you think the content of divine revelation in Scripture is zero, I don't think you're answering the question in the terms I put it in, and I don't know why you bother referring to it at all. Wrong thread.
    mousethief wrote: »
    Eutychus wrote: »
    @mousethief it's not clear to me from your post whether you think the pain of the fire of God's presence is experienced eternally or not.
    mousethief wrote: »
    Many Orthodox also believe in salvation after death
    That doesn't tell me what they believe about the possibility of not being saved after death, and what happens in that scenario.

  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    @Anteater I agree with you and @Jolly Jape that many evangelicals are in fact closet universalists/annihilationists. I am wondering when the theological leadership will catch up with the base and how it will join the dots.
    Anteater wrote: »
    For those who have not heard the gospel, there is a plan-B of which I've heard several versions. E.g. that at the moment of death, they all get a gospel message from God, and are invited to accept. Which probably beats any currently available means of evangelism for its impact, so we needn't bother. Unless you believe you can present the Gospel better that The Lord. This approach is just plain daft to me, so I probably have not presented it well.
    I think such a view, or variations thereof, does not preclude the need for evangelism, since it is presumably better to knowingly follow Christ now rather than later.

    I think The Great Divorce has a lot to answer for in my working theology of the afterlife; that everybody ultimately gets their heart's desire (a variation on the Orthodox "my Heaven is your Hell"). One of the ways A Short Stay in Hell is picking at my thinking is that it's fairly persuasive in arguing that a) a permanent state outside Heaven (whether expressed in terms of duration or not) seems to have little purpose other than vindictiveness b) if the afterlife state is non-permanent, ultimately everyone will come to a point where they will be made ready for Heaven, and actually want it.
  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    edited October 13
    If even those who give a cup of water to someone who needs it, helping God’s kingdom to grow whether or not they believe, will receive their reward, then how does this shine into to idea of an eternal place of misery?

    I wonder whether it’s the corrupt part of us - yes, all of us - which will be destroyed forever on judgement day, and the good part will remain into eternity. We will always remember how the corrupt part of us negatively affected us and those around us, however, with the sadness of regret borne as a scar against the joy of heaven.

    And although it’s far better to try to do something about it while we’re still in the here and now, none of us will be perfect until God refines us.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited October 13
    Eutychus wrote: »

    @Martin54 if you think the content of divine revelation in Scripture is zero, I don't think you're answering the question in the terms I put it in, and I don't know why you bother referring to it at all. Wrong thread.

    I know that the content of divine revelation with regard to Hell is quantitatively, rationally, factually, evidentially, experientially zero. The only significant divine revelation is that posited as experienced by Jesus, and that is qualitative, contextual; why He was talking about it. That's this current Christian's current understanding.
  • EutychusEutychus Shipmate
    @Martin54 I can cope with that rephrasing a little better.

    To rephrase it a little more, should Hell be reinterpreted for today, and if so how do we make sense of the biblical hints of the afterlife for today?
  • From Anteater, "for many, hell is real, but only the dumb or psychotic go there".

    That sounds really bizarre, as both the dumb and psychotic may be unaware of these matters. Is it like the law, ignorance is no excuse? Maybe plan B covers it. But I've had clients who would think talk of hell is hilarious, and others, addictive.

  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    I won't presume in this company to "get" John 3:16, but I'd like to know what you think "perish" means in that verse, or what "condemnation" you think John thought the Son had come into the world to save us from.

    I take this verse literally.

    We are either saved or we perish.....we cease to exist.

  • Do we create hell when we judge others?
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